Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor
Donald Harris, chairman of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC), chided Fred Bell during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s regular meeting over Bell’s continued criticism of the new hospital project. Bell, a longtime hospital critic and newly announced candidate for the District 3 county commissioner slot, accused the commissioners and Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority of falsifying information supporting the necessity, feasibility and cost of a new hospital. “We thank you Dr. Bell for your comment, but in life you have to realize that everybody has opinions, but we have to deal with facts. I don’t know where you are getting your facts from, but they are different from the facts I’ve seen. You noted that people are against the hospital, but we have people who are for the hospital, too. We have heard from both sides on this,” said Harris.
Bell claimed the BOC purposely deceived the public about the cost of the hospital. “By my calculations, if the hospital needs $35 million and the county is putting in $25 million, that’s $60 million right there and it will surely cost more than that,” said Bell. But Commissioner Andy Ainslie corrected Bell’s math. “It’s not an additional $25 million on top of $35 million. The new hospital is a $35 million project and the county is contributing up to $25 million of that cost,” said Ainslie. Bob Hughes, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce also spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting to praise the commissioners for their support of the new hospital project. “I want to applaud these commissioners for the courage you have shown in standing up and doing what needs to be done,” saidHughes, who argued that a new hospital would be a huge selling point to businesses seeking to invest in the community.
“This is what the people who want to invest in our community look for and they come here to create more jobs in our community so we can all have a better quality of life,” said Hughes. Commissioner Ellen Warren argues that the new hospital was a vital to the growth, prosperity and health of Morgan County. She shared a portion of a speech given by Dr. Gary Nelson concerning the state of rural healthcare during the last Northeast Georgia Regional Commission last week. “It is a great concern in our state, the decline of healthcare in rural Georgia and the widening gap of healthcare here,” said Warren. According to Warren, Nelson shared that the “closure of a hospital means the closure of the town. Businesses leave, doctors, leave, people get older and sicker and it is also a concern of the environmental issues we have today.” Warren maintains that forgoing a new hospital would eventually lead to Morgan Memorial Hospital’s permanent closing. According to Commissioner Ainslie, Morgan Memorial Hospital is progressing as planned and presented a picture of what the new hospital is anticipated to look like. “It’s just a fantastic view, things are going quite well,” said Ainslie, who noted the hospital authority is currently working on meeting regulatory requirements, undergoing a feasibility study, and is expected to wrap-up financing some time this month.