A public meeting to discuss a petition for a hospital district in Somervell drew a crowd Monday morning to the District Courtroom.
However, it turned out to be a moot point.
“There is not a petition to consider today,” said Somervell County Judge Walter Maynard.
He also pointed out that the Commissioner’s Court does not have the power to create a hospital district. That decision is in the hands of the voters.
“This was to be a hearing to decide if the petition presented to us is valid and proper,” said Maynard.
He said Glen Rose Medical Center (GRMC) had decided to withdraw the petition after the public hearing was scheduled. The creation of a Somervell County hospital district has drawn support as well as criticism.
Clark Cole, a county resident, understands the need for the district, but is concerned that voters are not being given a chance to participate in the process.
“I don’t want the hospital to go under,” Cole said. “But they schedule these discussions when working people are at work.”
He referred to the regular time of Commissioner’s Court and the time set for the public hearing, both of which were at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. He is also concerned that the court approved more than $14 million for a certificate of obligation on April 14 to jumpstart GRMC’s expansion project.
“A certificate of obligation does not require the public to vote,” Cole added.
Minutes from the April 14 meeting show that an order authorizing $14,380,000 in Somervell County taxpayer dollars was approved by the commissioners.
If residents are worried that they’ll end up paying for the hospital twice, Commissioner Mike Ford said that’s just not the case.
“If the district is created, then the debt would transfer from the county to the district,” Ford said.
Public participation and tax dollars were part of the problem Jerry Lee, a consultant for Luminant, had last week when he addressed the court about the public hearing.
“We 100-percent support that hospital and we 100-percent support quality healthcare in the community,” Lee said in an interview last week.
Lee questioned why the petition for the creation of the district allows for a 75-cent tax rate, meaning property owners could pay another 75-cents per $100 in property value. Under statutory law, 75 cents is the maximum amount a hospital district can assess.
“We never dreamed we’d see more than a 7-cent tax,” Lee said. “You don’t go around writing blank checks like that,” Lee said.
Last week, Gary Marks, CEO of GRMC, said an emergency hospital board meeting was called for Nov. 13 to discuss the petition and the intended tax rate.
“The Foundation Board made a request to contact the judge and have the petition removed,” Marks said about Thursday’s meeting. “The board will consider that (a new petition) at a later date.”
He said the board wants to make sure that anyone concerned has a chance to be heard, allowing the board to take appropriate actions.