By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – A new doctor’s office could allow the Yalobusha General Hospital to offer state-of-art medical facilities for Yalobusha patients.
Hospital administrator Terry Varner told supervisors Monday morning, during a recessed meeting held in Coffeeville, hospital trustees are ready to spend an estimated $2 million to build a 13,000 square foot doctor’s office that would replace the two doctor’s offices currently operated by the hospital in Water Valley.
Both Dr. Paul Odom’s Rural Health Clinic and Dr. Walker’s Family Practice Clinic of Water Valley are owned by the hospital. The doctors and their staff are also on the hospital payroll. The new building would house the doctors and medical staff from both clinics in a single new building, Varner said Monday.
“The cost saving from combining the offices is excellent,” Varner explained. He also reported hospital board members were exploring two funding options, selling revenue bonds or borrowing money from local banks.
Varner formally requested authorization from county supervisors to borrow an estimated $1.6 to 1.8 million in the form of revenue bonds in the Monday meeting. Supervisors acted on the request, voting 4-0 to allow the hospital to issue revenue bonds, if they choose to go this route. Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette was not at the meeting.
The hospital is owned by the county, but operates as a separate entity with a five-person board.
Varner also said either of the two current doctor’s buildings could be available for the county, once the project is completed.
Converting Old Building
In Health Department
Varner’s building offer launched a separate dialogue about two specific county needs, a new facility for a health department and a jail.
“Dr. (Alfio) Rauasa went down and looked at it,” District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn said, referring to the building Dr. Odom currently occupies. Dr. Rausa serves as the District Medical Director in Districts 1 and 3 for the Mississippi State Department of Health.
“With minor modifications, it would be excellent for a health department,” Vaughn continued.
Vaughn also said the county had the necessary funds on hand to purchase and renovate the building without increasing taxes.
“This is part of a long range plan started five years ago,” Vaughn said. “We knew we needed a health department and a jail,” the supervisor continued.
Vaughn said the county had approximately $2.3 million in surplus in the general fund which could be used for the health department and jail.
The excess money was attributed several one-time tax windfalls, partially from taxation of the facility that will house Windsor Foods, and frugal management by county departments over the last several years.
Of the $2.3 million, Vaughn said the county needed to keep four months of operating expenses on hand as a precaution.
Joe McRaney, who serves as Governmental Specialists for North Central Planning and Development District, backed up Vaughn’s proposal to keep three to four months of operating expenses in the bank. This would leave the county approximately $1 million for the jail and health department.
“We need to put money in an account earmarked for the jail out of the general fund,” Vaughn urged.
“People will not be looking at this money, saying we need to lower taxes,” the supervisor continued.
Vaughn recommended putting $500,000 to $600,000 for the jail, a request that prompted feedback from Beat Five Supervisor Bubba Tillman.
“For the jail?” Tillman asked.
“We got to put money back for that jail, otherwise we will end up floating a bond,” Vaughn answered.
Even though the “jail money” would be earmarked, the board would still determine how to spend it, Vaughn added.
Vaughn continued his reasoning, adding it was still probable Yalobusha County would be selected by the state to build a regional jail. The money set aside would then be used to build a sheriff’s office adjacent to the regional jail without the need of a general obligation bond which would increase the tax rate in the county.
“This is an example of good government at work,” McRaney told supervisors as the discussion ended about the surplus money.
A decision is expected on earmarking money for the jail and health department during the first of the month meeting in June. At that time Varner said he would have an idea of the value of the two doctor’s offices.