MILLEDGEVILLE — The Baldwin County Board of Commissioners still desire a specific intergovernmental agreement draft from Oconee Regional Medical Center before supporting borrowing of up to $30 million to refinance existing debt and provide new monies. In congruence with the Georgia Hospital Authorities Law, ORMC asked for a county ad valorem tax pledge not to exceed 3 mills for 15 years.
“This is probably the last major borrowing the hospital would do for quite some time,” ORMC CEO Jean Aycock said Tuesday.
Sammy Hall, District 3, said the board needed more time.
“I suggest we put it on our work session agenda,” Hall said “I feel like we need some more conversation.”
County attorney David McRee suggested ORMC submit a definitive resolution for adoption.
The Baldwin County Commissioners passed a non-binding resolution backing the hospital to begin the refinance effort concerning 1998 bond debt of $24.7 million for five years back in November.
ORMC received the go-ahead to start shopping with banks and lenders. The county reserved the right to review any deal the hospital brought back, before any tax pledge participation.
The resolution includes protections preventing the county from ever leveraging the millage. Unrestricted cash and investment levels must be maintained throughout the agreement.
The current bond interest rate is 5.34 percent. ORMC estimates the county tax pledge would drop the rate up to 2 percent, saving the hospital up to $500,000 a year.
The net proceeds would be used to call and redeem the bonds, pay off a $883,000 BB&T note and fund the acquisition of $3.5 million in hardware and software upgrades required by the Affordable Care Act.
A well-known company specializing in financial guarantee insurance, Assured Guaranty, expressed willingness to work with ORMC and the county.
“They are very familiar with the type of financial arrangement we've been discussing with the county,” Aycock said. “Their only caveat to what was proposed was that the ad valorem pledge would need to be for the full 15 year period of the financing, not five years.”
Assured Guaranty will provide an insurance policy on the 2013 bonds if the county agrees to the pledge.
Considering 45 percent of the county exists at or below the poverty line, hospital services are more important than ever. ORMC provided $3.6 million of charity and indigent care costs for Baldwin County residents in fiscal year 2012 and wrote off $5.6 million of bad debts for citizens.
Federal technology and equipment upgrades can't be postponed any longer, according to Aycock.
“We have the opportunity to forge and important partnership as we all work as a community to turn around our local economy and bring back prosperity to this area,” Aycock said. “It's about the patients and what they need, so we have to be focused on that.”
In other news:
• Amy Michaud, project director for the Baldwin County Adult Treatment Court Collaborative (ATCC), informed the board of a $200,000 federal grant request enhancing the existing drug court to fill judicial funding gaps. The ATCC asked for county administrative support. No county funding is required. The program has served 101 individuals since Feb. 1, 2012, addressing those with substance abuse, mental health or co-occurring disorders that have committed a crime.
• The county accepted the only bid ($138,882) for the Crawford Rd. Project. SPLOST matching funds totaling $58,000 already on hand will be used.
• A list of surplus county vehicles will be sold. The board agreed to hold additional listed items from convenience centers till the Feb. 28 work session considering trash policy concerns.
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