PINEDALE – The Sublette County Board of Commissioners started important discussions and received an outlined reduced-budget report at its Feb. 16 meeting in the Lovatt Room at the Pinedale Library.
Sublette County Public Health Nurse Janna Lee, David Doorn of the Rural Health Care District and Tonia Hoffman, chair of the Special Hospital District, met in front of the commissioners to discuss the fate of the Public Health building and if it would remain in its existing capacity when the new critical access hospital is built.
A work group of commissioners and representatives from both Public Health and the Special Hospital District were supposed to meet before the commissioners’ meeting but that did not take place. Instead, they all presented their intentions and plans going forward.
Doorn explained the prospective layout and that, in order to connect the hospital to the existing clinic, there would be no way to salvage the Public Health building. He said they aimed to keep it but in order to have a centralized registration and hook up to the existing clinic the Public Health building was near the planned entrance.
“I wanted you guys to know it’s always been our intention to find a place for Public Health, the veteran services office, the sanitarian, within the existing complex,” Doorn said. “Our hope is, right now, where the ER is right now, where the lab is, where x-ray, CT is, that whole portion of the building will be empty and those services will be moved to the new hospital.”
Doorn explained it’s their intention to have Lee and those with Public Health come in and design the space in that building to their needs. He stressed the importance to make a move easy on Public Health so their services see as little disruption as possible.
There will be an interim period for Public Health, Doorn said, but the intention is for the interim period to be as small as possible.
Construction for the hospital, if all goes according to plan, should start at the end of the summer, Doorn said.
Lee voiced her concern about the costs and practicality of moving all Public Health services and equipment.
Commission chair Joel Bousman said it’s the county’s responsibility to provide Public Health, Veterans’ Affairs services and sanitarian services. All of those exist in the current Public Health building and would be displaced by construction.
Hoffman said it’s never been the district’s intention to displace those county services. And, according to Doorn, no decision has been made on interim location or timeline regarding movement of those services.
Bousman asked about the new facility’s capability to serve the county’s veterans. Veteran Services Officer Billie Hamby said veterans can be treated in county currently because they are so far removed from a VA clinic.
“As long as the hospital gets approved for community care it’ll be the same way,” Hamby said.
Commissioner Tom Noble said all parties involved should come up with proposals before the working group comes together to meet again.
No action was taken in those discussions. Lee returned in front of the commissioners later to present the county’s COVID vaccine funding contract, worth $102,617. That would pay for staff and costs associated to vaccinations. As of the meeting Public Health administered 1,035 first doses and 305 second doses. She said they’re moving through the Phase 1B group and have been able to fully vaccinate staffs at both school districts in the county.
The commissioners approved that contract.
County Treasurer Emily Paravicini presented the county’s expense and revenue balance sheet to the commissioners. She outlined the budget and discussed what impacts Senate File 0060, Monthly ad valorem tax revisions-2, could have on the county. That bill has already passed through the State House and Senate.
Budget sheets handed out showed the county was down $3 million for the month. She said at this point the commissioners should talk about where the threshold is when the county digs into reserve funds.
Paravicini said the county usually spends about $2 million a month – $3 million if payroll is included – and the county only keeps 15 to 16 percent of property taxes collected.
“We’re getting to the point where we will get a big tax payment again in May and then we have June, July, August, September when we won’t get much from those tax payments,” she said.
A report showed delinquent property taxes for the first half of 2020, which should have been paid in November, totaled over $6 million. Most of that came from one company. Paravicini said she’s already placed liens on those companies in the event companies declare bankruptcy. No tax payments at all from them would short the county $12 million.
A different report pulled showed around $63 million in unpaid 2020 taxes, she said.
Paravicini came to the commissioners to bring the situation to their attention and so the board could determine where that threshold into savings would be.
She then brought up Senate File 0060, which is supposed to help counties by making monthly payments.
“I think it looks great on paper and what it’s designed to do will help counties eventually but the first year, they’re anticipating a 30- to 40-percent shortfall for the counties,” she said.
The county was proposed to receive $130 million in full. If the county didn’t collect 40 percent of that (roughly $52 million), Paravicini said it would cause serious problems and force the county to dip heavily into the “rainy day” fund.