Local physician calls for county hospital vote

Randal Claassen, physician from Hillsboro, asked the Marion County Commission Monday to take charge of elections for a single county hospital to replace the two existing ones at Marion and Hillsboro.

He predicted the existing hospitals would continue to be used as clinics.

Claassen said a county-wide election for public financing of such a hospital would probably pass, while a vote by just the western half to join the public financing that already exists in the eastern half would probably fail.

He said opposition to a new hospital tends to center in Peabody and Goessel, but with more public education about increased services, opposition there could possibly decline.

Claassen said he believes the eastern half of the county would vote overwhelmingly for a new facility with county-wide funding because, by his estimate, the mill levy paid for hospital support would decline from 12 mills to 10 mills.

?Who doesn?t vote for a tax decrease for themselves?? Claassen asked. The 12 mills generates $638,000 for St. Luke Hospital in Marion, he said.

The tax change would be toughest for farmers and business persons in the western half of the county because they haven?t had such taxes before, Claassen said.

But he noted that these people would find a county-wide hospital a vast medical service improvement for themselves.

Jeremy Armstrong, hospital administrator at St. Luke, said only 25 percent of people from Marion County who need hospital care want to stay in the county, and new facilities would attract them, therefore benefitting county finances and services.

More medical professionals would also be attracted to the county, Armstrong said.

Claassen said the medical professionals in Marion County agree a new hospital is needed, but ?for some reason, we haven?t been able to figure out how to do it.?

Claassen said Marion physician Don Hodson at Marion favors a county-wide hospital as much as he does.

Claassen said another reason the ultimate authority of county government involvement is necessary is because when Hillsboro and Marion try to do it, ?this Marion-Hillsboro rivalry button gets pushed. I don?t understand it because I didn?t grow up here, but apparently it is real.?

Claassen said the commission also has ?your representatives in place to follow the dollars for a county-wide hospital tax district.?

Commissioner Bob Hein said Jackson County personnel tell him their county-wide hospital at Holton has had steady growth since it was built. Holton would be a similar-sized operation to what would be needed in Marion County, he said.

Hein also said new county-wide facilities have been highly successful in larger cities such as Newton, Salina, Hays and Great Bend.

Hein said the commissioners would need to talk to city councils and other members of the public before developing a county-wide program.

Commissioner Dan Holub said the total dynamics of such a project would need to be investigated.

Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said the commission will immediately send out letters of concern to both hospital boards before calling for a county-wide public meeting.

Claassen said a county of only 12,000 people can?t be expected to support more than one hospital.

In other business, the commissioners left it to Sheriff Lee Becker to try to save some shrubs around the courthouse foundation by digging them up to replant around the jail.

Most of them are expected to die when a water proofing project begins Oct. 1.

New north basement doors have been installed in the courthouse, according to the county clerk report.

Holub said at the next meeting he hopes to learn when credit cards can be issued to department heads for traveling and day-to-day Internet purchases of items that can?t be obtained locally.

He said that basic travel expenses for employees can be paid in other ways, but he wants to be assured they are taken care of in the event of such things as car breakdowns.

The commissioners approved paying $1,790 for a Quest copier out of McPherson plus $300 for a copier tray for the register of deeds office. The alternate bid for a Konica Minolta copier was $3,514.

The commissioners awarded a $21,350 transport fuel bid for 5,500 gallons of diesel and 2,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline to Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro.

Cardie Oil of Tampa submitted a competitive bid, but the co-op had the lower per unit bids, and Cardie had some wrong size on units of fuels needed.

Road and Bridge Department Director Martin Rhodes reported 63 percent of the gravel budget has been used for the year.

Road and Bridge Signs Superintendent Dennis Maggard said state requirements for road name signs have been increased from 4-inch letters on 6-inch signs to 6-inch letters on 8-inch signs. He will continue to use 6-inch sign replacements on intersections with one sign remaining, but where both are gone he will go to 8-inch signs.

Maggard said most missing signs are because of theft, especially on popular names like Mustang. However, he thinks sign loss from damage and theft would continue at close to the same rate even if road names were changed.

The commissioners met in several executive sessions with no action taken when the public session resumed.

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