Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 6, 2014

Support huge for hospital

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Pauls Valley voters made it very clear they want a hospital here as they brought big support on Tuesday to pass a new local sales tax measure.

It was pretty much a one-sided vote as nearly 84 percent of the ballots cast were in support of a half cent tax meant to help the financially struggling Pauls Valley General Hospital.

In all, 588 out of the 702 votes cast were in support of the tax measure, which comes to 83.8 percent.

That left 114 votes (16.2 percent) opposing the tax in an election that officials describe as a light turnout.

The voting was also likely impacted by many local streets still being covered much of Tuesday by ice dumped from a winter storm this past weekend, election officials said.

Naturally officials working for weeks to promote the tax proposal are smiling with the voting results.

“This is a new beginning for this organization,” said Jim Clough, chief executive officer of Pauls Valley’s hospital. “This is a new day for this hospital and this community.

“I think this makes a statement,” he said about the vote totals.

“The residents have made a statement they want a hospital here and are willing to support it.”

Clough was brought in to serve as the CEO by New Light Healthcare, which is currently working with the city of Pauls Valley to manage the local hospital.

Revenues from the half cent tax, which raises PV’s total tax rate to 9.75 percent, are estimated to be around $600,000 a year.

With the tax being passed on a permanent basis, all of the revenues generated by the half cent will be used to upgrade the hospital’s diagnostic equipment and services with some attention going to bring back the facility’s surgical services.

“The hard work comes next,” Clough said.

“We’ll be working to finalize plans for the turnaround.”

What Clough is referring to is the hospital’s financial turnaround as work will now move forward with funding plans based on the half cent tax.

It should take 30 to 60 days to finalize plans for the hospital’s immediate needs, he added.

Things were also upbeat at city hall after the vote.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” City Manager James Frizell said.

The community is definitely behind keeping this hospital open,” he said. “The community told us in a strong way they’re behind this hospital.”

Frizell said the next step will include figuring out the debt service or loan package needed to begin the process of making the hospital upgrades.

“There are several areas in the hospital that need upgrading,” he said. “We’ll sit down and prioritize what comes first.

“We know the billing system and the operating room will be first. After that we’ll need to prioritize what comes next.”