Hospital seeks new funding

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

As the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority (MMHA) pursues constructing a new $35 million hospital, leaders are investigating a new federal funding source to finance the project. Hospital leaders have decided to apply for a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loan instead of a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) loan as previously purported to be MMH’s first choice.

As Morgan Memorial Hospital presses on in the effort to construct a new  $35 million hospital, hospital leaders have opted to pursue a new federal funding source for the project. MMH has announced the decision to apply for a USDA loan instead of formally applying for a HUD loan, as previously intended. As required by USDA, MMH is holding a public meeting about it on Wednesday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at the Madison Public Safety Meeting Hall, located at 160 North Main Street, Suite 400 in Madison.

“At one point HUD appeared to be the preferred route but as we got further into the process it became apparent that USDA would be significantly more favorable from a financial perspective.  MMH was not rejected by HUD as we have not submitted a formal application for that loan program,” said Megan Morris, director of development and community relations for MMH.

According to Morris, a draft version of the long-anticipated feasibility study has been presented to the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority (MMHA) last Thursday. “The feasibility study clearly shows, using conservative projections, that the project is realistically achievable and can be maintained long term,” said Morris.

Members of Citizen Morgan, a small online group created to protest the new hospital project, plans to attend the meeting with questions for MMH leaders.

“I want to know how our county officials can sleep at night after refusing a referendum and failing to provide cost-comparisons for all financing options they said they considered,” said Kathryn Bruce, a member of Citizen Morgan. “Instead they maintain for almost a year that they chose a more expensive HUD 242 loan with mortgage insurance to keep the county ‘off the hook’ in case of a loan default. Yet, they applied for a USDA loan at the last minute (citing lower cost) and never even applied for HUD. We told them at the start that USDA costs less, but they ignored this maintaining the desire for HUD’s government backing of the loan. Unlike their promises, taxpayers WILL be making payments for 25 years regardless of a loan default and regardless of whether a hospital is even built.”

Bruce also plans to ask MMH officials about future financial projections.

“I would also ask how the Hospital can make financial projections about future profits if there is no signed written agreement between Piedmont/AHA and Morgan Memorial Hospital for the proposed unfunded ‘partnership,’” said Bruce. “I believe that the taxpayers are not opposed to having a well-run healthcare facility. They just want to have a say in how their tax money is spent. All the options must be considered and the final expenditure should be put to a taxpayers’ referendum.”

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) encouraged citizens to attend Wednesday’s meeting to get the most up-to-date information regarding the hospital project at Tuesday’s BOC regular meeting.

“The hospital’s meeting should answer any questions the public has,” said Commissioner Ellen Warren.

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