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CCMSD to start grant process for new hospital

Crook County Medical Services District (CCMSD) has not yet been able to move forward with applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant that could help to fund a new county hospital – or upgrades to the current building – but hopes to do so within the next couple of weeks.

CEO Micki Lyons explained to the Board of Trustees last week that the application process has proven not to be a simple one.

“I have had a lot of difficulty getting hold of someone at the USDA to actually help me through this process,” she said.

She noted that this is partly because Lorraine Werner, Special Projects Coordinator for the Rural Development program, is “very part time” and it has been difficult making contact.

Meanwhile, she said, “It is an interesting application, to say the least. There are some very confusing questions on it and there is a lot of information that is not really applicable, plus we also have to put all the financial and budgeting information in there.”

Now that the new budget for CCMSD has been finalized, Lyons said, these details can be used for the application.

Meanwhile, she believes she has now managed to get all her outstanding questions resolved.

Lyons said that she anticipates being able to have the application completed and submitted by mid-August.

The application is being completed on the advice of Werner, who strongly suggested moving ahead in order to kickstart the USDA’s internal process of reviewing the particulars to see what might be possible. The preliminary application does not expire and will allow the board to see what might be possible and what the district can afford.

More discussion was also held on the idea of asking voters to approve an increase to the number of mill levies collected on behalf of CCMSD. This was an idea first posited by Trustee Brent Fowler, earlier this year.

Fowler has, at past meetings, stressed the importance of taking this step on the basis that it shows the district has done everything within its power to raise money for the new building. He continued to advocate for doing so at last week’s meeting.

Not all board members felt that now is a good time to ask for an additional mill, considering the recent high inflation and increase in property taxes.

“There’s a lot of people struggling right now,” said Trustee Sandy Neiman.

However, Fowler said that he has spoken with a number of people about the topic and said, once he explained the benefits of preparing for the future, they were supportive.

It’s about futureproofing the district for what may come, he explained.

“We’re getting more and more people in the state, whether we like it or not,” he said. “We have to be able to take care of it.”

We want those people staying right here for their healthcare, he said. While he does not believe that should involve specializing the hospital or changing it in other fundamental ways, he would like to see modernization.

“I just want it up to date,” he said. “…Talking to the people I’ve talked to, a lot of the reason they moved to Sundance is because we have a hospital – bottom line. They could get immediate care.”

If the board does decide to ask voters to grant an additional mill levy, it will need to pass a motion to do so and notify the county, through whom the question would be placed on the ballot.