ROCK SPRINGS — After some discussion, the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County (MHSC) Board of Trustees decided to draft a letter to the Sweetwater County Commissioners explaining why they have selected remodeling the lab for their specific purpose tax project. The letter will also ask for the commissioners’ support.
During the MHSC meeting yesterday afternoon, the trustees voted unanimously to write a letter to the commissioners justifying why they are requesting to remodel the lab as its specific purpose tax.
Chairman Taylor Jones said that during a recent commission meeting some concern as to whether or not the lab project would be considered a basic infrastructure project was brought to light. Jones said he spoke to a couple of commissioners about it after their last meeting to find out what the hospital could do.
“With a county this size and the population we have, I firmly believe that our hospital is basic infrastructure…” Jones said.
When all of the people passing through the county along Interstate 80 are included, he believes that only adds to it being a basic infrastructure. With this in mind, Jones said he considered whether the lab itself would fall under basic infrastructure.
“I’m not a medical professional, but I do know that we can’t hardly do anything in our hospital without a fully functioning lab,” Jones said.
Last year, the lab had about 76,000 visits and about 560,000 tests were completed. Jones came to the conclusion that the lab is a basic infrastructure not only to the hospital, but the county as well.
According to Jones, one of the county commissioners requested a letter from the board explaining its stance on the lab being selected as the hospital’s specific purpose tax project.
The board could pick other projects to be placed on the ballot, such as replacing the windows or redoing the parking lots, he explained, however, he doesn’t feel that would be in the best interest of the public.
Trustee Ed Tardoni said while the hospital is getting the tests done, they are using the foundation’s office as a temporary lab, which the patients liked. However, all of those test samples then have to be physically walked over to the main lab for testing. The current lab’s waiting area is insufficient to meet the needs like the temporary lab can.
“Can we get by? Yes. Is is the best possible situation? Definitely not,” Tardoni said. “So if there is anyway it can be funded, it’s something well worth doing.”
Trustee Kandi Pendleton asked if there were other funding options the hospital could pursue to remodel the lab.
MHSC CEO Irene Richardson said they have applied for a State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) grant, through the state. However, the last time she checked, they wanted a one-to-one match, meaning if the project would cost $6.5 million, the hospital would need to pay for half of it. Richardson said she didn’t know if the county would help cover the cost of half of that project. Richardson also said applying for the grant doesn’t guarantee they will receive the grant.
Sweetwater County Commissioner Jeff Smith said SLIB grants are really competitive and some of the funding are only for COVID-19 related projects. In addition, he said the application process is extensive. As for lists of specific purpose projects, there are $113 million in requests and the commission would like to stay in the $85 million range. The county’s $21 million project list, which currently includes the hospital’s lab remodel, is less than the City of Rock Springs’ $41 million project list the City of Green River’s $34 million project list.
“I am in support of it and the hospital,” Smith said.
As for the label of whether or not is infrastructure doesn’t matter as much to him and the importance of the project, Smith clarified.
Trustee Marty Kelsey said he looked up the definition of infrastructure and based on that definition there is no doubt that the lab remodel is an infrastructure project.
“I’d like to see it go forward,” he said.
Trustee Barbara Sowada echoed what the rest of the board discussed saying she would like the lab remodel to remain as the hospital’s specific purpose project.
After this discussion, the board voted unanimously to write a letter to the county commission explaining why they selected the lab as their project and asking them for their support.