Bigfork Valley District Hospital Board holds July meeting

by Rebecca J. Passeri

The Bigfork Valley Board of Directors held their monthly meeting on July 1. Those present were Chairwoman Gail Blackmer, Linette Davidson, Joel Karels, Roberta Votava, Carol Mills, Kenny Porter, Shelly Mai, Heide Watson, Chris Horton, Matt Huju, Don Jensen, and Shirley Sorrentino. Dr. Anderson was also present.

The first order of business was something new at the table – a microphone. Blackmer said, “Sometimes it’s hard to hear around the table. I think I can probably bark loud enough – and some of us can – but anybody that doesn’t naturally speak up or doesn’t want to stand up or something, grab the microphone and if anybody can’t hear, remind somebody and we’ll pass the microphone along so that we can hear otherwise make sure you speak up so we can hear. Those have been made available to us. I think most of you know that Dan has requested and been granted vacation time, starting today, for a trip that he’s been wanting to take for many years and this was an opportunity for him to go so we are conducting the meeting on our own, which we do fairly much, anyway. So Dan is on vacation – approved paid time off (PTO).”

Blackmer began discussion on the agenda. She said that the last item would probably qualify for a closed meeting, so when they got to that point, they could take a little break and come back as a closed meeting. “It will be, actually, performance expectations, performance review, information, that does qualify for closed meeting status,” she said. The agenda was approved, with Votava being the lone nay vote. The board also approved the board minutes and the Task Force meeting minutes.

The first item on the agenda was a presentation and a visual on the swimming pool that has been proposed to be added to the campus. Swimming Pool Committee members Nichole Baker, Barry Feld, Tom Boland and Kristen Huot were present. Baker introduced Tom Baker, a representative from U.S. Aquatics, Inc. who spoke about the options for the pool.

The estimated construction cost of the pool is $3,300,000. Tim Johnson, who is the grant writer for the Bigfork Valley Community Foundation, said that he can not begin the grant writing process until there is a commitment from Bigfork Valley to commit for ownership, maintenance and operations for the swimming pool. The board was told that there is no guarantee that the committee will be able to receive 100 percent of the funds from outside.

N. Baker said that they were present at the meeting to ask the board to commit, but she did not expect them to do so at this meeting, and would wait until the August meeting.

After the presentation, the board members had some questions. Mills asked what experience they had had with pools for senior citizens around the state. T. Baker answered that they usually do several a year. They had recently constructed one at the assisted living center in Alexandria.

Porter asked about the depth of the pool, and T. Baker said that it will be seven feet deep but can be made deeper. Porter asked if School District 318 approves of the pool and was told that they are supportive of it. Porter then asked if having the pool would offer job opportunities for youth in the area. T. Baker said that it would offer life guard jobs.

Votava thanked them for not expecting a decision at this meeting, and giving the board members time to absorb all the information that they were being given. She asked about liability and how that would affect Bigfork Valley’s liability insurance.T. Baker said that was included in the operational pro forma and there is money allocated for liability insurance.

Watson asked if there are any operating grants that could cover the potential losses. Johnson said that they are difficult to come by.

Mai wanted to be clear on whether or not the committee was asking the hospital to help fund any of the building project. Johnson said that, at this point, they are only asking for the hospital to own, maintain and operate the swimming pool. He said, again, that there is no guarantee that they will be able to get 100 percent funding for the project. When a certain point is reached, the facility may need to re-assess if they want to contribute or not. Mai said that, being as they don’t know how long it will take to get funding, she was concerned about not knowing where the facility would be at, financially. Johnson said that the board of directors can place contingencies on their commitment.

Karels said that it’s that way with any project. He said there are a lot of unforeseen things out there, but the research and planning is done, it’s built and the pro forma shows that it will make it.

Mai said she was wasn’t talking about the operational part of it, but the actual building of it.

When Votava asked if the facility’s current boiler system would handle this new addition, Plant Services Manager Leo Kern said, “No. Our boilers won’t run it. I’d suggest you go geothermal.”

Votava asked if there would be an extra cost to drill more wells. When Kern answered in the affirmative, Votava asked for an estimated cost. Kern answered that it depends on how many wells are needed. He said that the engineers would have to design it, and there would be a fee for that, also.

Watson wondered out loud if that cost would be on them. Karels said that a lot of the construction is there, as far as the infrastructure and being able to tie into the existing building.

Kern said that was not so.“We left a space available, and we had a few extra wells put in for future use. We always knew we would have to drill more wells,” he said.

Karels said that he wasn’t speaking about just wells and Kern said that there are taps in place to tap off from.

Votava suggested that they might want to get estimates on the cost of putting in the extra wells and to be sure that the facility can maintain it appropriately. “Heating it is going to be an expense, as well, that may not be included in this construction cost estimate” she said.

Kern agreed with her, and he also said that there would have to be a staff member licensed to deal with the chemicals involved with a swimming pool. He said they would also have to think about the parking space that would be needed. He said that it sounded to him as if the current design for the pool included the heat system, and they would not have to utilize their boiler system.

T. Baker said that they haven’t worked out all the details yet. Kern said, once the board decides to commit to it, the committee would get together and decide if they would use propane or geothermal.

Karels said there would a cost to dig the wells, but there would a quick return on it. Votava said they still needed to be informed about what the estimated cost might be before they make the decision to commit to it.

Votava also asked about the possible need to have a lifeguard present at all times. “If the pool will be open to the public wouldn’t we have to provide that? I don’t know what the legalities are,” she said.

Watson said they would have to figure that out. “I thought we would find out with our insurance, what the requirements for that would be,” she said.

Porter asked if the pool would be sustainable for sports, and T. Baker answered that sporting events would not be able to be held in the pool, but practices could certainly be held there. He said that high school competition pools have a minimum of six lanes, and the plans for the swimming pool at the Bigfork Valley facility have three lanes.

Huju asked if the committee had considered the demographics of the area. T. Baker answered that they had done so. Huju said something else, but someone’s cell phone began making strange sounds, so what he said could not be heard on the recording.

Discussion followed about the advantage of having a pool in the area to be used for physical therapy. When the discussion was completed, Blackmer made the comment that it was obvious there is a need to gather more information before a final decision is made by the August board meeting. She asked T. Baker if he would possibly have that information or, if not, where they would turn to find it. He answered that they would provide any information that the board needed, saying they would work closely with Johnson.

Karels encouraged the board members to read through the documentation that was provided. “A lot of the questions that came up today are in the documentation,” he said.

Feld said, “When you think about the costs – this is the wettest state in the country, and it’s just a shame that kids don’t have access to swimming. When we take our kids to swim lessons, we have to throw them in the lake here in Bigfork, and it was freezing cold because that was the only time they had a lifeguard available. So, as we think about cost – one cost is the kids who grow up here who don’t learn how to swim. In a county with 1,000 lakes and a couple of dozen rivers.”

Mills pointed out that several years ago, people didn’t think the Edge Center for the Arts was a good idea, that it was unaffordable. “But look what happened,” she said.

Discussion followed about the possibility of modification to the plans to allow for a dive block, and then it could possibly be used for income coming from things like scuba classes.

Some of the board members thanked them for the presentation, then they returned to the next agenda item, which was the May financial report, given by Christine Lokken. During the report, Karels made a comment that the negative $400,000 on the Statement of Cash Flows part of the report means that they sent $400,000 into investments. “I want to make sure that everybody understands that we’re not broke,” he said. The complete financial report can be seen at Bigfork Valley Hospital.

The Accounts Payable was next. Votava had a couple of questions. One was concerning a dollar figure of $11,200, which Lokken explained was for a dishwasher. The other was for Midwest Insurance Company for $52,390. Lokken said that was for Worker’s Comp. She said it was a little higher this month because the contract was renewed and they had to make a down payment and partial month payment. The board accepted the accounts payable.

Bigfork Valley Hospital Pharmacy Manager Heather Bibeau was up next to speak about the Remote Checkout System. She said the system is sort of like a backup register. The device can be carried to a patient in the hospital who is about to be discharged and they would be able to pay for and pick up their prescriptions at their bedside. She said it would be less expensive than purchasing another register. She said the cost is about $5,128.

Watson thought it was a good idea to help improve patient satisfaction because a discharged patient would no longer have to stop at the pharmacy on their way out and wait for prescriptions. Karels thought it was a good idea because the pharmacy has occasionally had their register stop working, and this new device could be used as a backup when that happened. A motion was made to purchase the device and it passed unanimously.

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