Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 4, 2014

PV merchants weigh in on hospital tax

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — The time to decide the fate of Pauls Valley General Hospital is upon the voters of Pauls Valley.

In talking with several downtown merchants, it appears a majority of them are leaning toward approving the tax come Tuesday.

Some noted that they did not feel as informed as they would like about what the tax, which will be used to buy equipment for the hospital. A few merchants went off the record saying they wouldn’t mainly because of the tax rate rise.

However, that’s not to say many had concerns about the medical facility, including long time business owner Miles Philpott of O’Neals Jewelry.

“We’re the ones who have the burden of collecting it. It puts us at a distinct disadvantage versus a lower tax rate elsewhere,” said Philpott. “There are always burning issues worth paying for, but where’s the stopping point?”

Philpott believes it is worth the cost though. “Having such a facility is important in any future growth for the town and people look for it when they are relocating.”

His hope is that someone like Mercy or another large hospital will come in later and buy PVGH.

For those like April Uolla, owner of High Maintenance Hair Salon, she’s had her own experiences with the hospital. Her daughter had to have an emergency breathing treatment a few years ago echo a reason she will be supporting the tax.

“I don’t know that she could have made it going elsewhere,” said Uolla. “I feel comfortable living in a town that has a hospital… I want a hospital, but something has to change out there.”

She noted how a lot of the mismanagement that took place before couldn’t continue and that it will take some solid proof they want to turn things around.

Barbara Johnson, at Johnson’s Springcrest Drapery said it is too much of a hassle for people to drive to the next closest hospital, like Purcell or Sulphur. She is worried that losing the hospital would cause the local physicians to leave and not encourage any more to locate here in the future.

“I don’t think we have any choice if we don’t want to lose our medical support,” said Johnson. “Of course no one wants to pay more taxes, but this is a worthy cause.”

Others like The Gallery owner Ruth Ann Colley also plan to support the tax. She feels conflicted when it comes to trusting the city to make sure it is spent the right way. She believes it has to pass and prays that it does. She believes that what is on the ballot and what the money will be spent for is far too vague.

Colley does not feel comfortable raising the tax rate from 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent and is leaning towards not voting for the county half cent so the rate stays the same. As a merchant, she is worried people will shop out of town and cause more harm than it’s worth.

“I love Pauls Valley and we have to have it, so we’ll just have to go in on a wing and a prayer,” said Colley. “I think we need to manage our money a little better.”

In the end, for those like Elden Blackburn, who owns the hardware store on Paul Avenue, the need far outweighs any debate or problems it has had in the past.

When he’s had to visit the hospital, he’s only had positive experiences. Even if it was only to prep him to be treated at a larger hospital in Oklahoma City.

“You won’t think you need it unless you have an emergency,” said Blackburn. “Then you’re all for it.”