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Council takes no action on using Roughrider Fund to improve healthcare

Posted 8/14/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The decision by the Watford City City Council as to whether or not it wants to commit $100,000 a month of the city’s one-cent sales tax proceeds for the next 40 years to help build a new replacement hospital and clinic for the McKenzie County Healthcare System, as well as completely renovate the Good Shepherd Home was tabled last Monday night.
While the Roughrider Fund Committee, which evaluates all of the projects before bringing them to the city council, was fully supportive of the funding level, city council members stated that they wanted more time to review the issue.
“Since 2002, every community forum in Watford City has shown that making improvements to our healthcare system is one of the highest rated needs of our citizens,” stated Jody Renbarger, Roughrider Fund chairman. “Based on the amount of money that is coming into the Roughrider Fund, and because of the need to improve our healthcare system, the committee believes that now is the right time for us to fund this request.”
According to Renbarger, it is the committee’s recommendation that the funding would be made available to the McKenzie County Healthcare System as soon as ground is broken for the new facility.
According to Renbarger, the Roughrider Fund Committee does not foresee any problem with providing this funding into the future.
“The fund took in over $2 million in city sales tax funds in 2012,” stated Renbarger. “That was double what we took in during 2011. And I expect that this year’s income will be higher again.”
Renbarger also noted that since the city’s existing one-cent city sales tax is set to expire in the fall of 2014, city residents would need to vote in June of 2014 to continue the fund. And because of that sunset clause, the Roughrider Fund would revisit the continued funding for the healthcare system after that vote.
According to Renbarger, the healthcare system is requesting the Roughrider Fund grant to help in the funding of the new hospital, clinic and improvements to the nursing home.
“The healthcare system is applying for a $15 million loan from a state loan pool, as well as a $40 million USDA loan,” stated Renbarger. “The Roughrider Fund amount is key to the healthcare system receiving these two loans.”
According to Dan Kelly, McKenzie County Healthcare CEO, the healthcare system’s plan is to construct a new hospital and clinic on the grounds of the existing Good Shepherd Home nursing home facility, as well as to completely renovate the existing nursing home to provide for private rooms.
Kelly also informed the council that the healthcare system would be able to fund the debt of the new construction going forward based on increased volume that would come with a new facility.
“We are at $12 million in revenues a year right now,” stated Kelly. “There would be a considerable jump in revenue with a new facility. And when you look at the long-term picture, with the assistance of the Roughrider Fund, we would be building reserves  to carry the debt long term.”
However, with a September deadline nearing for the healthcare system to apply for the state and USDA loans, Kelly is hoping the council will concur with the Roughrider Fund’s recommendation soon.
“In order for us to have a prayer of getting the Bank of North Dakota loan, we need the USDA loan approved,” stated Kelly. “And the USDA would like us to have the commitment of the Roughrider Fund.”
The city council, along with the Roughrider Fund and the McKenzie County Healthcare System, will be meeting on Aug. 14 to try to finalize the funding.
During Monday night’s meeting, the city council approved a $3,800 grant to purchase equipment for the Bakken Academy of Dance.