City okays $9.5 million Roughrider grant for healthcare
By Neal A. Shipman
With time quickly running out for the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Inc. to come up with the $16.6 million that it needs to raise in order for the system to break ground this summer on a new replacement facility, the Watford City City Council gave its approval to a $9.5 million Roughrider Fund grant.
The healthcare system has until the end of May to finalize its financing in order to complete its loan application to the USDA. And with the commitment from the city council, which came during a special city council meeting on Wednesday, May 13, Dan Kelly, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Inc. CEO says that construction on the new replacement facility will begin this summer.
“Wednesday, May 13 was a momentous day for the McKenzie County Healthcare System and for the citizens of McKenzie County,” stated Kelly. “The pledge of $9.5 million from the Roughrider Fund as approved by the city council is the last major hurdle we needed to overcome. With the pledge in place, we will proceed in June with construction. I am thankful to the Roughrider Fund, the city council and the many supporters of the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc. who made this pledge possible.”
According to Kelly, the estimated cost of the new replacement facility will be $79,147,609, an increase of $16,646,309 more than what was initially estimated.
“We have $62 million in funding today,” stated Kelly. “We’ve been able to reduce the cost by $4.5 million without impacting patient services, and plan to raise an additional $2,646,309. But the system needs the commitment of the $9.5 million in Roughrider Funds to complete the financing package.”
According to Jody Renbarger, chairman of the Roughrider Fund, the committee spent countless hours reviewing the healthcare system’s request of $9.5 million and stated that the committee was supportive of the request.
“The Roughrider Fund Committee feels very strongly we are using the city sales tax funds to meet the public’s needs and wants,” stated Renbarger. “People want to know when it (the replacement facility) is going to be built.”
According to Renbarger, it was the committee’s recommendation that the Roughrider Fund commit $1 million upfront with the fund committing 13 percent of its monthly sales tax revenues toward the remaining $8.5 million pledge.
“Since we don’t know what the level of sales tax dollars will be that will be coming into the Roughrider Fund in the future, the $8.5 million balance could be paid off quickly or it may take some time,” stated Renbarger.
The Roughrider Fund, according to Renbarger, has a current uncommitted balance of $3.3 million and has been averaging monthly receipts of $546,000 during 2015.
“Last year, the Roughrider Fund averaged monthly receipts of $335,000,” stated Renbarger. “And the year prior to that, the fund received an average of $192,000 monthly.”
Based on the fund’s revenue projections, Renbarger stated that the committee did not believe its funding of the new Event Center and the new replacement healthcare facility would impact the Roughrider Fund in being able to fund other projects.
“We have committed 50 percent of the Roughrider Fund’s receipts to the new Event Center,” stated Renbarger. “Even with the additional commitment of funds to the healthcare system, we will still have $1.4 million annually to fund other projects.”
For Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Job Development Authority executive director, the use of Roughrider Fund revenue for the Event Center and the new healthcare system was exactly what the residents of Watford City wanted to see the funds used for when they voted to increase the city’s sales tax to 1.5 percent.
“If we can end the year with the new healthcare system replacement facility and the new Event Center being built, we can look the public in the eye and tell them we used the sales tax money in the way that they wanted,” stated Veeder. “The public was adamant that they wanted the money to go to the new healthcare facility.”
According to Kelly, the new replacement facility will include nine emergency room treatment bays, a 24-bed hospital, 30 clinic exam rooms, a full scale laboratory, X-Ray, a 32-slice CT scan, a MRI, as well as private resident rooms in the Good Shepherd Home.
“In the new facility, we will be able to offer out-patient surgery, as well as obstetrics and other specialty services,” stated Kelly.
In addition, according to Kelly, Sanford Health will be renting 6,000 square feet in the new facility for their own clinic and doctors.
“Sanford and the MCHS are moving forward with addressing the community’s needs,” stated Kelly. “
“We will be having our own doctors in the new clinic,” stated Kelly. “In addition, there will be Sanford doctors, as well as other visiting specialists. Patients will have their choice of doctors.”