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County Backs New Wellstar Hospital

The Paulding Board of Commissioners authorized financial backing of up to $31.25 million for a new WellStar facility.

Paulding County is a step closer to a new hospital, which will replace the existing in Dallas.

After listening to presentations from two WellStar officials and the chairman of the Paulding County Regional Hospital Board during Tuesday morning’s work session, county commissioners gave unanimous approval in the afternoon session to enter into an intergovernmental contract for the Paulding Medical Center Project with the Paulding County Hospital Authority.

The agreement allows the county to provide financial backing of up to $31.25 million, or up to 25 percent of the capital cost of the new replacement hospital.

By taking this action, the board gave more flexibility to WellStar in working with the approving authority on the Certification of Need.

"We are asking the county to guarantee 25 percent of the cost for construction of the new hospital, which will be $125 million in the Certificate of Need to be submitted to the Joint Commission on Accreditation,” said Mark Haney, senior vice president of real estate for WellStar Health System Inc.

Haney gave a presentation to the board on current WellStar facilities in the county and what would occur with the building of the new hospital and an additional medical office adjacent to the hospital.

The current has about 76,000 square feet and is fully leased, according to Haney. That building is owned by the doctors who are in the building.

A second medical office building will have about 80,000 square feet and will open up more specialties for the area when completed. In addition, it is anticipated that about 200 new jobs will be created as a result of the new facility.

The new hospital, which will begin construction in August 2012 if approval is granted by the approving authority, has the potential to create about 300 new jobs when fully built out.

Haney explained that WellStar would be requesting approval of the facility under the Sole Community Hospital Exception. This would lessen the chance of the request being denied, and also allows for more beds to be approved.

Under the regular certificate of need procedures, Paulding might have had 31 beds approved, but under the exception method a total of 112 beds could be approved.

"This number of beds would take care of the county for many years," Haney added.

Initial plans call for 56 beds in the first stage of completion in 2014, with the remainder of the beds to be added over the next couple of years.

Haney said that the total WellStar investment in the project would be about $157 million when the new hospital and medical office building are fully completed.

Charles Brock, chairman of the Paulding County Regional Hospital Board, also endorsed the request for the county to provide financial backing to the new hospital.

"There are 35 members on the board from within the community, and we are unanimous in asking the board to support this project. It is a great opportunity for Paulding," Brock said.

Brock added that many patients from other counties are now coming into Paulding for services at the current medical office building.

The board discussed four items of new business in the work session and approved three by unanimous votes in the afternoon session. The fourth was not on the agenda for the afternoon session.

Finance Director Tabitha Pollard requested that the board reaffirm what was discussed in the budget meeting last week and approve a 2011 budget amendment.

According to Pollard, the county has adjustments in the budget during the year as a result of grants being approved, cost savings realized, or other changes in income or expenses.

"Rather than doing adjustments all during the year, we wait and do one adjustment near the end of the year," Pollard said.

The board also agreed to lease a portion of the first floor in the Historic Paulding County Courthouse to the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia.

Initially the lease will run for three years, and the costs of renovation incurred by the county will be paid by the Board of Regents from the lease payments. The county will collect $82,495 over the three-year period.

There is an option to extend the lease for another 10-year period, with the lease payments to be $1,500 per month.

The lease must still be approved by the Board of Regents.

Approval was given to a resolution confirming a closed session for the purposes of personnel resulting from the June 9 called board meeting.

County Administrator Mike Jones discussed some of the budget issues the county will face for the new fiscal year.

"The 2011 tax digest will be about 9 percent lower and we are projecting that 2012 will be about 6 percent lower," Jones stated.

Jones discussed a variety of additional cuts the county is exploring for the new budget year.

The first group of proposed cuts, a total of $754,000, was discussed last week in a special called session of the board, and is now online and available for review by the public.

The second group of proposed cuts is $1.76 million and that information will be online by the end of the week.

In the board meeting on June 28, the public will be able to ask questions about the proposed budget for next year, including questions about the millage rates.

After hearing input from the public at the June 28 meeting, the board will vote on a budget for 2012 in July.

Chairman David Austin said, "The public has asked us to cut the fat and now we are cutting to the bone."

The county has lost about $6 million in property tax revenues since 2008 and has enacted cuts to match the loss of revenue.

During the work session, the board discussed three bid awards, all of which were unanimously approved in the afternoon session.

Game Time submitted the low bid of $97,860 for shade structures to be installed.

North Georgian Landscaping submitted a low bid of $88,680 for the countywide lawn care turf program.

The flood repair projects at Loch Highland Drive and Oberlochen Way were awarded to Butch Thompson Enterprises Inc. with a low bid of $372,860.

The county will pay about $110,000 while the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will fund the remainder. This will fund repairs for areas damaged during the 2009 flooding in the county.

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