Supports project, but can it afford to invest?
The Buena Vista Regional Medical Center trustees seemed favorable this week to some level of financial involvement in support of Project Awaysis.
At least that was the consensus among trustees who discussed the possibility that BVRMC might take part in the $2-million private fund-raising effort that is a key part of the $29-million destination park. Awaysis Chair Mike Wilson gave the presentation he has given dozens of times now, but updated with moving Power Point graphics and peppered with a few new details. Wilson was assisted by Gary Lalone, Chamber of Commerce CEO.
"The city has not been informed that the Vision Iowa board has made a decision" as to a specific award for Project Awaysis, Wilson said. "That has not been communicated to us. We expect there will be a decision December 10."
Vision Iowa board Chair Michael Gartner also expects some level of award to be announced next week. Awaysis has also received the unequivocated endorsement of Governor Tim Vilsack.
Wilson projected a spring groundbreaking with construction going through 2008.
Board Secretary Byron Crippin asked Wilson about possible concerns for entities that accept charitable donors to invest in Project Awaysis.
Wilson said Awaysis representatives had spoken with Buena Vista University officials as well as the hospital trustees. "We don't know yet what their decision will be," Wilson said.
As far as BVRMC is concerned, Wilson said, "For every business in this community, their future is tied to this. I think their futures are tied together very closely." Wilson said Awaysis representatives would remain sensitive to any concerns regarding contributions by nonprofits.
As for the impact on the rest of Buena Vista County, Wilson said "What's good for Storm Lake is good for the county." Wilson cited expected sales tax revenue increases and creation of new jobs.
Lalone added that Buena Vista County plans drive trails to every town in the county. He said Awaysis is working with the Iowa Department of Transportation on a four-lane highway and bike trail. "It's a far-reaching project," Lalone said.
Wilson said Project Awaysis has deliberately avoided tying the project to gaming.
"We did not want to tie a casino and Project Awaysis together," Wilson said. "This project is in no way tied to a casino and it will never be."
While Wilson and Lalone did not specifically ask the board to consider any financial contribution, Crippin asked whether the board intended to donate to the project.
Board Chair Mike Sharar said the hospital needed to deal with other issues first. "It's tough to make a pledge to somebody if you're not making any money."
Sharar noted that BVRMC was the "third or fourth largest employer in the community. If we have the opportunity to improve qualify of life for our employees we have an obligation to do that."
Crippin questioned the hospital's unquestioned support of Awaysis, but said he could endorse "a relatively modest contribution that's health-related."
Sharar heartily endorsed the positive economic impacts of Awaysis.
"I don't think we have the foggiest idea as to how far this thing could really go," Sharar said. "We (BVRMC) really are a business partner. No matter what we call ourselves, we are a business."
While noting a distinction between the BVRMC and the foundation, most board members agreed that Project Awaysis would benefit the hospital as well as the rest of Storm Lake.
Sharar said that as chair of the Awaysis fund-raising committee he would abstain if the hospital board should vote to commit funds to the fund-drive.
* In other business coming before the board Monday, BVRMC received a clean bill of health following an audit report by David Ginther and David Hannasch of Gronewold, Bell, Kyhnn & Co. of Atlantic.
"We feel you have a strong balance sheet for a rural hospital," Ginther said. "You do have a very adequate cash on reserve position" which indicates BVRMC's cash reserves.
Hannasch said BVRMC was ranked either at the top or toward the middle compared to six other similar medical facilities. Regarding the funded debt ratio, "It's amazing that you've been able to maintain that level of reserves," Hannasch said.
According to the financial report for the end of October, BVRMC has $5,571,444 in cash on hand, slightly less than the $5,653,224 it had on hand the same period one year ago.
* The board also approved an affiliation agreement with Trinity Health of Fort Dodge. Todd Hudspeth, CEO, said the current agreement between Trinity and St. Luke's runs between $100,000 and $200,000 a year plus an additional $45,000 for a management agreement. The new agreement will be $24,000.