County Commission to Provide Letter of Support for PMH’s Loan Application
During their regular session on May 19th, the Pocahontas County Commissioners voted to provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a letter of support for Pocahontas Memorial Hospital’s (PMH) application to the USDA for a loan of up to seven and a half million dollars.
Prior to the commissioners making this vote, Mary Beth Barr, the CEO of PMH, explained to the commissioners that the purpose of this loan would be to expand their existing facility, adding eleven thousand, two-hundred and seventy-five (11,275) square feet to the existing twenty-three thousand, eight hundred and twenty-four (23,824) square feet of the present facility, which was built and occupied in 1995,
In her presentation, Barr explained that PMH is currently a designated Critical Access Hospital, a Level IV Trauma Center and offers inpatient care in its 25 beds as well as emergency and outpatient care. Since outpatient departments create 80% of the hospital’s revenue, and since there is no physical space available to expand the outpatient services offered, in May of 2019, the Hospital Board authorized PMH to spend up to $40,000 for a feasibility study regarding obtaining a USDA loan for the expansion. PMH presented the positive results of that study to the county commission on January 21, 2020. The study was done by the firm of Arnett-Carbis-and Toothman (ACT).
On March 3, 2020, the commission authorized PMH to proceed with the loan application with the understanding that they were under no obligation to agree to the acceptance of the loan if the application was approved by the USDA.
On May, 15, 2020, the USDA informed PMH that they ran the numbers and liked what they saw. They asked ACT to provide a few more details but said that PMH could begin to contact banks who would finance during the construction phase. They also needed a letter of support for PMH’s application from the commission.
Barr explained that the expansion would be to the rear and left side of the building, It would add a minor operating room, a pre and post operation area, as well as expanded areas for other emergency and outpatient departments, the pharmacy, the IT department, Material Management and Dietary Department.
Barr told the commissioners that the USDA funding is available until July 31, 2020 with a current fixed interest rate of 2.375%. The next steps include doing an environmental impact assessment; submitting approval Certificate of Need from the WV Healthcare Authority, choosing 2 or 3 banks for the construction loan, completing the actual application form, submitting the commission’s letter of support and starting a capital fund-raising campaign and starting construction before September to ensure the private donor provides their promised one-million dollar donation.
She said that if they receive the 1-million-dollar donation and can raise another million dollars in the fund-raising campaign, the USDA loan amount could be lowered to 5.5 million instead of 7.5 million dollars,
Commissioner Walt Helmick said his concerns include the need for the commission to develop a viable structured collateral base -or money source- incase the hospital defaults and the commission has to pick up the loan. Greg Gibbs from Act said that in a worst case, the hospital could be sold to another health provider to pay off all or most of the loan, but it would be unlikely to default on the loan. Helmick then said he had no problem with the commission sending a letter of support since this does not yet involve a commitment. Both of the other commissioners also voted to send the support letter.
In other actions at the meeting, the commissioners:
- Approved the quote from Lauttamus Communications for a new 911 radio system for the northern part of the county.
- Extended the extension of the Broadband Study Grant until June 30, 2021.
- Authorized the County Clerk to hire Jackelyn Hollandsworth as a full-time Deputy Clerk effective June 1, 2020.
- Agreed to submit a petition application to the Federal Communications Commission to grant an exception to allow both Direct TV and Dish Network to offer local West Virginia TV channels to county customers. They are working with the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation and Mike Holstein of the Green Bank Observatory on this.
- Made routine year end budget revisions and resolutions for various revenues and expenditures and for courthouse offices. Some of those were needed because the Hotel Occupancy Tax revenues were about eight hundred thousand dollars more this fiscal year then the had anticipated when they prepared the budget a year ago. They warned that next year those revenues will likely be much reduced.
- They successfully tested the new electronic voting machines for the June 9th primary election.