County to go to court to tap into hospital trust fund

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By Alice Du Pont

Michael Glazer, attorney for the Gadsden Hospital Board Inc., asked for and was given permission to go to court in an attempt to get $4.8 million from the hospital trust fund. The money, if granted, will be used to open the hospital and purchase equipment.

Glazer also asked Gadsden County commissioners to approve a three-member committee that will advise the trustee, Capital City Bank, on investments using the trust fund.

"The trust fund was established in 1952 and some of the provisions have become outdated over time. The intent was to provide the hospital board but that board no longer exists. There is no person or group to make investment decisions," Glazer said.

He said it would be cost effective to the county if the request were made at the same time to release the funds and establish an investment committee. The committee would be comprised of the Clerk of the Courts or his designee, a person appointed by HGI and an appointee from the commissioners.

If there came a time when GHI no longer operates the hospital, a new member of the committee will be appointed by the commission.

GHI chairman Craig McMillan reminded commissioner that they were created and appointed by them and they served at the will of the board. Commissioner Brenda Holt voiced her opposition to a GHI member sitting on the investment committee.

Glazer also told the commission that when two entities go to court it is a lawsuit. However, his appearance before the judge to access the trust fund, he said is different because the two parties are not adversaries. Capital City Bank, according to Glazer, is neutral on the matter.

"If you had one attorney that would save the county money because the money to pay the attorney would come from the trust fund," Glazer said.

Capital City Bank has already signed a waiver indicating that they have no objection to one attorney. McMillan agreed that it is expedient and that the money saved would remain in the trust for later use.

Holt said she did not agree with using one attorney because of the potential for problems later if the two parties (GHI and the county) became adversaries.

In other matters, the board approved:

• Leasing the hospital (buildings and 15 acres) to GHI through 2014 for $1 per year.

• Asked the county's staff to figure out a way to keep the Urgent Care Center open until the hospital is open. One suggestion would allow the center to remain open and operated by the county’s emergency medical services department, plus one doctor, one radiologist and one coordinator for five days per week.

Jeff Lawson, business development director for North Florida Medical Center said the center could take on the responsibility at no cost to the county Monday through Friday during the center's regular operating hours. He said, if needed, they could probably work out a way to remain open until 10 p.m.

• Changing the original half-cent indigent tax to include using the remaining two-thirds of the money for hospital operations.