City denies request for waiver for hospital

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By Alice Du Pont

“If you bite me once, you won't get the chance to bite me again," said Quincy city commissioner Keith Dowdell.

He was referring to a request from the county to waive the utility deposit for Gadsden Memorial Hospital when it opens. In a letter to Jack McLean, city manager, dated May 28, county manager Johnny Williams requested the waiver.

The city, while revamping its deposit schedule several months ago, voted that all new accounts and all reopened accounts would be required to pay a deposit based on a formula recommended by the customer service director and approved by the commission.

In 2004 the management firm selected by the county filed bankruptcy while the county still owed the city $143,317 for utility service. The city has never been paid any of the outstanding utility bill, according to Ann Sherman, customer service director.

"Due to this unpaid debt, along with the city's new adopted deposit policy, deposits are now required for all new accounts. Winn-Dixie and Higdon Furniture both filed bankruptcy and as a result, the city was not paid $64,000. The city did not have deposits to cover the lost revenue," McLean wrote in a memo to commissioners.

The deposit required from the county would be $57,485 to receive service. An option staff offered for commissioners' consideration was a $25,000 deposit for 6-month trial period.

"In the spirit of brotherly love, I want to do everything I can to help get the hospital open," said Mayor Andy Gay.

Commissioner Finley Cook said he could support the request if the county operated the hospital. If, Cook said, the county hires a management firm, the deposit should be paid in full.

A majority of the commissioners agreed to deny the request for waiver.