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Borough Assembly addresses questions concerning recall

“If the recall goes through who actually seeks the new board members.” That was one of many questions at Tuesday evening’s regular Borough Assembly Meeting regarding the upcoming recall election and the future of the replacement hospital project.

A special election on the question of whether to recall 8 out of the 9 members who sit on Wrangell Medical Center’s Board of Directors is set for June 19th. The Assembly was unable to answer the question of who will appoint new members, if a large scale turnover of the hospital board occurs. Borough Manager Timothy Rooney says he plans to contact the City Attorney for the answer.

“Rather than us speculating on this, this is something we should let Attorney Bob Blasco look at. We will have him develop a written answer and I’ll have it to you before the next regular meeting,” he says.

Along with questions regarding the recall, Rooney addressed concerns pertaining to the future funding of the new hospital facility. In a recent letter to the City, main financer U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says due to the potential instability of the hospital board, they are forced to reconsider their current loan agreement signed last year for the construction of the new hospital.

“What the USDA is communicating now with the pending recall petition is that if there is a complete over haul of the WMC board they would have to reconsider whether or not they would continue to loan the money as a revenue bond and if they would have to change it to a general obligation bond,” he says.

USDA’s loan is for approximately $25 million. Currently their loan agreement is that of a revenue bond, which would be paid back by money generated by the hospital.  If it were to change to a general obligation bond, it would need to be approved by the voters of Wrangell and stipulates that in an event that there is a short fall in hospital revenues city property taxes would make up the difference in the payment. Rooney says at this time city staff is looking at possible limitations of that loan.

Hospital CEO Noel Selle-Rea says in the event a new hospital facility is unable to be built, the current hospital would have to downsize from 22 beds to 12.

“My biggest concern obviously is whether we would be viable. Not so much in the cost of making the physical plant changes because they would be substantial but in the size of our rooms.  We have really small rooms. We have ten semi private rooms with dual beds and all of their bathrooms are non-compliant. For us to expand and have expectable bathrooms we will lose 10 beds in the current facility,” he says.

USDA plans to wait until after the special election to decide on the terms of the loan. The special election is set for Tuesday, June 19th. Polls will open at 8 a.m. and go until 8 p.m. The last day for absentee voting in person is June 18th. The Canvassing Board will meet June 21st to certify votes, and results will be available June 25th.

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