Hospital commission asks architects to cease contact with Allegiance

Friday, December 21, 2018

Over the past year, the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission has worked with Allegiance Health Management and Bates Architects to come up with a plan to renovate the hospital. The commission voted Monday night to put that plan on hold until further notice.

Commissioner Barbara Dicks proposed the idea of asking Bates Architects to cease contact with Allegiance, saying she wants to be sure Allegiance is in a good financial state before moving forward. Allegiance has failed to pay rent for months, Dicks said. Chairman Michael Merry said the commission's attorney sent a letter to Allegiance addressing the late payments, and hospital CEO Vicki Andert said Allegiance received the letter.

"We need to make sure they are up and running and paying their bills," Dicks said.

"I have been considering that issue as well," Merry said. "I think that's an exceptionally good idea."

"I don't want to pay [Bates] any more money to go down a rabbit's hole," Dicks said.

Merry said the architects have done everything they've been asked to do, saying he doesn't see the point in adding more money to the project quite yet.

"Until we're ready to go further, there's no reason to put more funds behind it," Merry said.

Dicks moved to ask the architects to avoid meeting with Allegiance until further notice, and the commission agreed to do so.

In other business, the commission discussed the possibility of using 24 Norris St. for the hospital. Merry said Mayor Butch Berry recently contacted him asking if the commission would be willing to buy the building.

Merry described the history of the building, saying the commission owned it for years and didn't collect rent from the doctor who resided there.

"I think the people involved died and they went away and it was forgotten," Dicks said.

"And Dr. Beard said, 'Hey, if nobody's collecting, I'm not going to pay,' " said commissioner John House.

The Eureka Springs City Council considered using the building for city meetings, Merry said, but the space didn't make sense for that purpose.

"They've run across so many difficulties. Since everything has to be filmed and the angle of that lens would have to be so wide to accommodate the people in the small room," Merry said, "a new lens for their camera would probably cost as much as remodeling."

Berry asked Allegiance if they'd be willing to pay a monthly rent to use the building, Merry said. Andert said the city proposed $2,000 per month, saying Allegiance proposed $1,600 and then the city moved on to other options.

"The next thing they were talking about was they were thinking about selling," Andert said.

Merry said the building was appraised, coming in at $114,000. Berry asked if the commission would be open to purchasing the building.

"They would like the hospital commission to buy the property and manage it," Merry said. "It would still belong to the city regardless. They'd just get $114,000 out of it."

House said he can't get behind that idea.

"It's weird that the city is trying to charge us for a building when we're part of the city, and, frankly, that building was originally built to go with the hospital," House said. "Why wasn't it part of the whole thing to begin with? They didn't sell us the hospital building."

Dicks said the city council asked Berry to sell the building, and that's what he's doing.

"They're looking for money to put in The Auditorium for their meetings," Dicks said. "That's how it all came around. This is [Berry's] idea, because he believes we should keep it with the hospital and use it at a doctor's office but the council has directed him to sell it."

House said the building would require some remodeling, and the commission is already working to remodel the hospital.

"I would be opposed to just taking money from our account, which technically belongs to the city anyway, to move money for The Auditorium," House said, "because somehow, they have decided they own a building we already owned and they want to sell it back to us. It doesn't make sense."

"I think it is more of a problem than it would solve," Merry said, "particularly when we've got other issues at hand."

House said he'd be happy to manage the building but he doesn't want the commission to pay for it.

"If the city wants to let us have it back, we're happy to take it off their hands," House said. "But we're not going to pay the city for it."

House said he didn't feel the commission needed to take any action on that, and Merry agreed.

"We have no specific set of rules to follow here," Merry said. "It was an idea presented off-the-cuff. We've discussed it and I think we've decided it's probably not a wise idea."

The commission moved on to elect House chairman for 2019. Merry said he'd stay on the commission as long as the commissioners need him there.

The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at the ECHO Community Room.

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