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Expansion, Renovation Could Come For Hospital

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – A pitch from the county’s hospital administrator to float up to $6.575 million in bonds for debt restructuring and an aggressive renovation and expansion plan for the county-owned hospital received an initial thumbs-up from supervisors.
    Speaking during the “first Monday” supervisor meeting, Yalobusha General Hospital and Nursing Home Administrator Terry Varner outlined a number of projects under consideration by the hospital board. The plans include borrowing  $1.75 million for an assisted living center, $500,000 for a children’s daycare, $500,000 for a storm shelter and wellness center, $425,000 for an adult daycare center, $750,000 for a nursing home dining room, $500,000 for a lab and renovation at the hospital and $600,000 for an exterior renovation to the hospital. The plan also includes refinancing $1.55 million currently owed by the hospital, bringing the total to $6.575 million.
    Varner emphasized the list has not been finalized by hospital board members and his first step was to gauge support from supervisors for the project before the hospital board moves forward with the plan.
    He also explained that recent expansions have been funded using existing operating funds.
    Varner said the current low interest rate – an estimated 3.3 percent – was a factor in the plan.  If the full amount is borrowed, the hospital’s debt service would increase from $20,000 to $35,000 monthly, an amount Varner reported the hospital could handle.
    First to weigh in was Board President Tommy Vaughn, who voiced approval for the biggest expenditure on the list.
    “Personally I have been a proponent for an assisted living center. I think it is needed here. We got so many people from Water Valley staying in Oxford that would love to be home. I think it would be a benefit to the county,” Board President Tommy Vaughn said.
    “Yes,” District 2 Supervisor Amos Sims agreed.
    Varner said the assisted living center would affect the census at the nursing home, but plans include future expansions to other parts of the county to offset the losses.
    “Our goal is to expand out into Oakland with a small personal care assisted living or nursing home, five beds, and then also into Coffeeville,” Varner said.
    This would take pressure off the north end of the county, Varner added.
    Following questions about the assisted living center, Varner fielded inquires about other projects that could be funded with the plan.

Children’s Daycare
    “Terry, expand on your daycare?” District Three Supervisor Lee McMinn asked.
    Varner explained the daycare would be a break-even proposition, but would be a great recruiting tool for new employees and a service for existing hospital employees.
    “We have nurses who work 12-hour shifts and have young children,” Varner said, citing one benefit for the day care.
    “It’s a tool for recruiting. It’s a service, a break-even thing,” Varner explained.
    Varner said the initial budgeting on the daycare indicated the weekly cost per kid would be in the $70 range.
    “Would it also be available to the public as well?” McMinn asked.
    Varner said the facility would be large enough to serve the public as well as the hospital employees’ kids.
    “What we want to do is merge in with Cotton Candy Kids. She has agreed to come down and run it and bring her existing people down,” Varner answered.

Storm Shelter
    Varner reported the storm shelter was low on the priority list, as far the projects under consideration. If constructed, the facility would be funded using a matching grant from FEMA that would pay for 75 percent of the project.
    “We put it on the list, but we are about 50-50 on it,” Varner said.
    He also said the shelter would be dual purpose, also serving as a fitness center and civic center.
    Varner explained the storm center would not be located adjacent to the hospital but would be off-site, possibly in Water Valley’s business district.
    “We talked with Steve (Thompson) with Corner-stone, he would like to relocate into that and lease space if we build it,” Varner continued.
    He said the facility would house about 200 people as a storm shelter.
Adult Daycare
    Varner said the funding for the adult daycare would allow the hospital to purchase the building currently under lease on Frostland Drive.
    The hospital opened the adult daycare facility last September and Varner reported the program has been a success.  
    “We are leasing the adult daycare from Tony Wiley. We want to buy it now. The program is going to take off. It is doing well,” Varner explained.

Hospital and Nursing Home Renovations
    Varner explained that the nursing home dining room would connect the two nursing home wings, adding a formal dining room that would be an asset to the facility.
    The renovations at the actual hospital would include the A-Wing that houses the lab, along with extensive work to the exterior of the hospital.
    “As you know it is a 50-year old building outside. We have done a lot of work inside, but now we are at the point where we want to make the outside look better,” Varner explained.
Questions and Feedback
    “What you are proposing right now is no increase to the taxpayers, you are going to make those payments,” Vaughn asked.
    “Yes,” Varner answered.
    “This will apply against our cap. But we have enough room to handle it,” Vaughn added, referring to the total bonding capacity of the county, which is calculated from the assessed value of the county.
    “We can go the GO/revenue bond blended route, that’s a possibility,” Varner answered.
    “Is that where it would be paid off by revenue, that’s kind of what I had in mind?” Vaughn asked.
    Citing a recent project in George County, Varner said the project could be funded using a “blended” route, a combination of GO bonds and revenue pledges, however the GO bonds interest is lower.
    Varner also said components of the plan would create new jobs in the community, with the assisted living center having the biggest impact with an estimated 20 new jobs. The children’s day care would create an estimated 10 new jobs, while the storm shelter would creative two or three jobs. Varner said the hospital renovation to the lab/A wing would create an estimated six jobs with the addition of a psych unit.
    “In health care, they are pretty good paying jobs. From $30,000 on the lower end all the way up to $70,000 for some of the R.N.s,” Varner added.
    Following Varner’s comments, Vaughn polled the board to gauge support.
    “It sounds like you have the support of the board,” Vaughn said after receiving a round of yeses.
    Varner said he would return to his board and fine tune the final list before returning to supervisors for final approval.
    Other information shared by Varner included:
    • A physician from Olive Branch will visit the hospital Saturday that is considering working at the Coffeeville clinic.
    • The hospital accepted proposals last week to build a clinic outside Oxford on Hwy. 7.
    “It looks like we are going forward with doing that,” Varner said. “We have got a lot of expansion going on.”

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