Tuesday, April 12, 2016

City Approves Hospital Loans, Resolution for 9-1-1 Funding

Two Sallisaw City Commissioners were sworn into office Monday evening at the regular city commission meeting.

Ward 1 Commissioner Ronnie Lowe (left, above) and Ward 3 Commissioner Julian Mendiola were both sworn into office by City Judge John Cripps.

The commissioners also approved $3.5 million in promissory notes to Arvest Bank for the operation of Sequoyah Memorial Hospital in Sallisaw. The loans are to be secured by the assignment of a sales tax dedicated to the hospital, and the mortgage of property, inventory and or accounts receivable. The loans provide the hospital with cash flow, the refinancing of debt at a lower interest rate and cash for emergencies.

John Cripps, chairman of the hospital board, told the city commissioners, “It’s been difficult for all small hospitals. We have cut staff . . . and we will continue to do everything we can to keep the doors open.”

Ward 2 Commissioner Jim Hudgens said he had reviewed the hospital’s financial records and was ready to approve the loans.

He said, “The hospital is in pretty tough shape and it will get more challenging in the future.”

The hospital is supported 78 to 80 percent by Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, which have declined.

“We will make you proud,” Cripps said to the commissioners in appreciation of their approval.

The commissioners also approved a resolution in support of House Bill 3126, which proposes 9-1-1 services be coordinated throughout the state and that funding be sufficient.

David Slaughter, Sequoyah County 9-1-1 coordinator, explained that 9-1-1 funding through landline fees has been decreasing over the past three years, and the local 9-1-1 service has lost 20 to 30 percent of its funding. The decrease is due to the switch from land lines to cell phones, Slaughter said.

He said the local service received $205,000 in 2013 from the fees, which dropped to $201,000 in 2014. Cell phone fees, when collected, have increased from $168,000 in 2014 to $174,000 in 2015.

But, Slaughter said, as land lines continue to be replaced by wireless phones, expectations of 9-1-1 services will increase and new technology need to be paid for. “We will never be able to catch up,” he said.

Other Business

-The commissioners awarded a bid for the 2016 asphalt overlay street improvement program to JOB Construction of Poteau for $175,058.80.

-The commissioners approved updating the city’s bond and fine schedule to match the state’s and increased the fine for shoplifting. The new schedule also adds a $15 fee to the fines schedule. The fees are expected to raise between $40,000 and $50,000 a year that will be used to update the police department’s technology abilities.

-After a discussion on a rezoning request, the commissioners asked city personnel to look into residents’ reports of flooding along Shurley Street.

-And, on the consent agenda, the commissioners approved a public auction on May 14 of city surplus vehicles, equipment, materials, tools and supplies.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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