DARLINGTON – The long awaited vote on the hospital project happened Wednesday night, Jan. 5 and the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted 13-1 to approve authorizing the plan to finance the new Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County building and purchase of land.
Out of the 16 board members, only 14 voted on the resolution. Carol Korn, District 14, was out sick and Mike Klein, District 2, resigned at the last meeting. Kurt Malott was appointed to Klein’s seat but not until after the vote.
Questions were brought up regarding what would happen to the land being purchased if the financing was not approved through the USDA, which it was believed the current owners would put it back up for sale.
Confusion with some of the legal jargon was cleared up in the second resolution about creating a transparent line between the county board and the decisions being made during the hospital’s construction phase with design elements and related matters.
Sauer addressed several fallacies he had heard over the past month including the hospital costing the county $5.4 million since 1960, the project is going to cost large dairy farms in the county an extra $50,000 in taxes, and there is no way the hospital will be able to pay the loans back by themselves. Sauer stated that the county didn’t purchase the hospital until 1979 and since 2010 the hospital has paid the county $1.8 million into the general fund. He has seen taxes go down lately and doesn’t see how it could cost taxpayers $50,000 in taxes and the county has heard from the auditors and municipal advisor that the hospital will be able to pay for the loans with assistance from Medicaid reimbursement and depreciation at around $1.6 million.
In a statement supervisor Scott Pedley established that he was a firm yes in favor of the project and ask board members, “When we consider the evidence for a new hospital provided from all the testimony and reports of our learned physicians and professional hospital staff that work within the walls of the existing facility each and every day, and when you consider the very favorable financing opportunities currently available for this endeavor, and as financial experts have pointed out the potential return on investment, the proposed expanded services that a modern facility can accommodate whereby financial risks to our real estate taxpayers are greatly mitigated and come to this final conclusion and offer a quote made many years ago which was applicable then and is applicable today to his government body this evening, if not us, who? If not now, when?”
Sauer then made a harsh statement toward Supervisor Kriss Marion stating that during her campaign against Rep. Todd Novak, she made postcards that stated she was supportive of rural healthcare in Wisconsin.
“It looks to me like we are looking at a no vote from you which is kind of hypocritical for the statement which I said before so either you were not really supportive of healthcare in Wisconsin or your positions changed,” Sauer retorted.
Marion stated she never once said she was not in support of the hospital and that Sauer was using a bullying tactic.
“It is my great pleasure to support the development of this county. And I am merely asking questions in a civil manner about matters that we should be aware of. I’m absolutely ashamed that we are going in this direction in a body of civil supervisors who should be working together,” Marion said.
Sauer didn’t think he was bullying her and felt she was being an obstruction to the project.
Marion again stated she was just asking questions from her constituents and “doing the job that a supervisor should do by asking questions”.
Sauer said that if she voted yes he would admit that he was wrong.
Hospital committee member Jed Gant then spoke passionately about his personal experiences with MHLC and the great need for the new hospital. He again reiterated that this project is self-sustaining and the $51.5 million is the maximum amount and cannot be gone over.
“Ultimately, the future of our healthcare department depends on our decision here tonight. And I challenge you to put yourself in the shoes of our community members who depend on the services provided by our healthcare department. This is a decision that forces us to look at the needs of our community and make a decision based on what is best for everyone. We need to make the right choice to support the growth of our health department and better serve our friends and neighbors. I’m going to tell you there's no wrong way to do the right thing,” Gant said.
Nancy Fisker questioned why the board was voting on the financing of this project if they don’t have the final word from the USDA.
Wiegel stated they communicate with the USDA weekly and has a very good understanding that they will be approving the project. She added that the USDA also wants to see if the board is interested in moving forward in the project and their commitment to it.
Another hospital committee member Homer Evenstad wanted to clarify his vote against the project during the committee level stating that he is in favor of the hospital but doesn’t believe it is necessary.
“Our family has given $130,000 to the hospital over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for the hospital but there are a lot of things I’d like to know about the hospital. The hospital is doing a good job now. They are doing a heck of a job,” Evenstad said.
He questioned what was going to happen to the current facility once the new facility is built. Sauer said that hasn’t been determined until they are completely sure they will be building a new facility.
The vote was taken by roll call vote with everyone voting yes, except Eric Staffaucher. Marion stated she was voting yes but wanted it to be recorded that she was “ashamed of the instability and the way people were treated”.
Sauer apologized to Marian stating that he had his mind made up that she was a no vote but she truly does support rural healthcare in southwest Wisconsin.