By CARL SMITH
Once again, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer will discuss the process behind a potential sale of OCH Regional Medical Center and the possibility of a future bond issue for infrastructure funds when Oktibbeha leaders meet 5:30 p.m. today at the county courthouse.
Trainer said he will bring up the possibility of continuing with outside financial analysis of the hospital. Previously, the board voted 3-2 — District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery, District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams and Trainer cast “Yay” votes — to seek proposals for such analysis. Following public informational sessions on the hospital’s future held by both Trainer and a grassroots organization supporting OCH, Montgomery, a key swing vote, came out against any OCH Regional Medical Center transaction after personally reviewing its financials with hospital administrators. A majority 3-2 vote is required to continue the process.
Trainer said he’s spoken with individuals representing Horne CPAs and Business Advisors, the organization which handled similar financial reviews in Greenwood and Grenada. In August, the Greenwood Commonwealth reported the organization handled a financial analysis of Greenwood Leflore Hospital for $40,000.
A Horne representative, he said, agreed to possibly speak with the board in the future.
“My suggestion (to the board) would be get him here, go into executive session (and discuss the financial analysis proposal),” Trainer said. “I think (board members) see the importance (of independent financial analysis), but nobody wants to step out into the line of fire. We need someone to advise us because health care is one of the most important issues facing our county.
“People shouldn’t be scared of these worst-case scenarios,” Trainer added, referencing possible job losses associated with a potential hospital sale. “We can approach the situation cautiously. I am trying to improve health care here in Oktibbeha County, not hurt it.”
An independent financial analysis is just one step needed for a potential hospital sale. If the board chooses to formally start the process after an analysis, citizens could force any transaction — an outright sale or a lease — to a countywide vote.
On Saturday, Montgomery said he was still committed to supporting OCH Regional Medical Center and would not sway on the issue. Calls to Board President Marvell Howard and District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson went unreturned as of press time.
Frank Davis, a representative of the pro-OCH citizens group, said hospital supporters will be in attendance today to observe the county’s discussion of the matter.
“We can’t afford not to be there,” he said. “We can’t afford not to be up to date on the situation.”
In addition to OCH, Trainer said he will also discuss the county’s need for additional road funding through a bond issuance. Trainer said the county should seek $10 million for infrastructure projects, a similar amount he campaigned for earlier in the year.
Since January, Trainer has motioned for three bond-intent notices — loans for $9.5 million, $5.7 million and $3 million, respectively — but each attempt was defeated by a majority board vote.
If the board uses the correct language in a future bond, Trainer said monies could be diverted to different projects and areas around the county.
“We need to gauge the citizens’ interest for this and if we do decide to go forward, we need to be flexible to do a variety of things,” he said.
Earlier this month, County Road Manager Victor Collins said Oktibbeha County crews are mostly on schedule with their assigned work within the county’s four-year road plan. In regard to this year’s scheduled work, he said his crews are approximately 75-80 percent complete, and work will continue as long as mild, dry weather holds.
“When the weather breaks in the spring, there are a number of projects that we want to do. If we go forward now (with a bond issuance), we could have a deal done before the year ends,” Trainer said. “(The potential bond) could give us funding to do a combination of things because in order to do more we have to have more.”
As with previous bond requests, Trainer said the county could make yearly loan payments within its existing cash flows or, if needed, add on an additional mill or two to the local tax rate.