POMEROY — Putting a levy before Garfield County voters April 28 is part of the plan the commissioners who oversee Pomeroy’s only hospital have started to craft to save the financially troubled institution.
The board of the Garfield County Hospital District voted Monday evening to put the measure on the ballot, figuring it will give them time to educate voters and run it again in November if it fails. Details such as the amount of the levy will be hammered out at a later date.
The decision comes weeks after an $860,000 levy failed by just 18 votes. Holding town hall meetings and learning more about the reasons some constituents had for opposing it is a part of the commissioners’ strategy moving forward.
“If we don’t go out and find out why people voted no, we’re going to be in trouble,” said Gary Houser, a commissioner who is leaving the board this month.
Employees who work at the district’s hospital and clinic need to understand that the primary purpose of those facilities is to provide a service to the community, not to give them jobs, he said.
If nothing changes, the district has enough resources to continue to operate its hospital, which has an emergency room, long-term care and a clinic, until September 2021.
With that deadline gradually getting closer, more information is beginning to emerge about how much it would cost if Garfield County residents traded their hospital for a more robust paramedic service, which would transport patients to hospitals in other communities.
Start-up costs would be about $300,000 and would include the purchase of a third ambulance along with additional training and equipment, said Kris Darby, the chief of the Garfield County Fire District.
Annual operating costs would climb from about $550,000 to $850,000 as the district went from having two full-time paid employees and 28 volunteers, to eight full-time employees, he said.
At that staffing level, the district would have 24-hour coverage and a back-up crew.
Sharing those numbers with voters before the next levy election will be important, hospital district commissioners said, so that they understand the options.
Williams may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261.