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Clinic contract back on hold

 

July 1, 2021



Who will pay the outstanding costs associated with the Red Bluffs Clinic in Hulett, recently estimated to stand at approximately $1.5 million? This question caused a sticking point during last week’s meeting of the Crook County Medical Services District (CCMSD) Board of Trustees, while the board also heard that their latest offer to lease space in the building has been rejected.

Bill Motley, secretary of the Crook County Medical Foundation (CCMF), presented a letter to the district that stated his board, “has made the unanimous decision not to gift the new Red Bluff Medical Center to CCMSD.”

This request had been made for a second time in the CCMSD board’s most recent offer to the foundation, with the majority of trustees feeling they would not be comfortable entering into a contract when the clinic’s future – and therefore the district’s stake in the building – has not been clarified.

The board’s offer would have seen them lease 4275 square feet at $1.25 per square foot per month, as well as pay the district’s share of communal area maintenance, and also included a stipulation that the building will be turned over to CCMSD once it has been paid off.

The foundation’s response turned down the request that the building be donated to CCMSD and also noted that the district will need to pay rental on the clinic’s x-ray machine, because the district does not own it.

District Opposition

Motley read out loud the letter from his board, which began by outlining the foundation’s distress at the opposition board members feel they have met with from members of the district board. Donated money was earmarked several years ago for a new medical facility in Hulett, the letter says.

“The CCMF board has been criticized, slammed in the paper, bullied continuously by Mark [Erickson], and we have promises which have been broken,” reads the letter.

“The current clinic is old, outdated and in need of repairs and very limited on space, with no room to expand or make changes an option. It’s hard to believe people won’t use the new facility where there are more needs offered.”

The letter condemns those board members (and ex-board members) who the foundation believes have not been in support of the clinic project since its inception, saying the foundation has only received backing from Trustees Sandy Neiman and Connie Lindmier. The foundation is still willing to consider a lease agreement with CCMSD, the letter states, but not with the provision that the building will be donated to the district.

Motley stated that it’s inappropriate for the district to ask for the building because the district has so far put “nothing in this fight” to see it constructed.

“I’m not saying we wouldn’t consider it down the road, but right now we can’t make that decision,” he said.

Later in the conversation, Trustee Connie Lindmier noted that she felt angry when the “demand” was added to the district’s offer that the clinic building be donated to CCMSD because she felt that board chairman Mark Erickson had convinced two other board members to make that decision before the meeting even began.

Ray, however, stated that he was the instigator, rather than Erickson, and had thought that if CCMSD is going to operate in Hulett, it should own the clinic just like it does the current building.

After a brief discussion of what happened to the original donations for the building, Motley suggested that the two boards should “let bygones be bygones” and figure out if the district wants to rent the building. Erickson later criticized the letter as, “not a good starting point” and not a good way to build relationships.

Paying the Loan Back

Motley stated that the current loan on the building was taken after all donations had been used, and the foundation is still working on grants to help finish it out. Donations are believed to have accounted for around $1.5 million of the cost, while Motley said the total cost of construction is now $3.6 million.

“So it’s expanded now even since our last meeting,” exclaimed Mark Erickson, CCMSD board chairman. Motley confirmed that this is the case, but only because new issues have cropped up along the way such as the need for a car port for the ambulance.

The district is willing to pay rent for its space while the foundation pays back the loan, said Erickson. The foundation has previously stated it expects to be able to do this within one year.

However, Erickson commented that there is no confirmation at this time as to how long it will actually take to pay back the loan. “We do not want to be renters for the rest of our lives,” he added.

“Are we going to rent it or are we going to buy it?” asked Ray, with Neiman stating that the district needs firm numbers from the foundation as to what they are looking for.

During the conversation, Motley mentioned that the foundation needs to have the loan paid back because it needs some way to start its next project, while board member Judy Hutchinson said the board also needs to replenish its CDs (certificates of deposit). This led district board members to realize that there is confusion as to who is actually expected to pay off the debt.

Ray said it had been his understanding that the district would rent the space until the foundation found the money to pay it all off, but had not realized that the foundation was expecting the district to pay the remainder of the loan.

Erickson asked if the foundation is now proposing that the district repay, “the land, the loans, the cash and the CDs – basically everything.” He expressed displeasure, feeling that the foundation is now trying to force the district to pay for something that it did not ask for and that was developed without its input.

When asked to clarify if it is indeed the intent of the foundation that the district pay back the remainder of the loan, after which the foundation will be willing to consider donating the clinic building to CCMSD, Motley responded that his board is going to need to talk about that as there seems to have been some “miscommunication.”

Board Attorney Kara Ellsbury stated that it will be necessary to clarify who is going to repay the loan. The boards keep writing letters, she said, but it seems the district doesn’t have all the information.

As discussions came to a close, Motley stated that he would return to his board and discuss the need for clarification on who will be expected to pay back the loan. Erickson requested that he return with the necessary numbers to allow the district to make an informed decision.

 
 

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