Starke County Council members will resume discussion tonight concerning an amendment to an ordinance that, if approved, would allow the county to use up to $50,000 in Save the Hospital Funds to hire a consultant to evaluate the hospital’s real and personal property.
The Council had discussed the proposed amendment during a special meeting on May 14, but it was voted down. Council President Dave Pearman said the motion needed a five-member approval, but only gained four “yes” votes.
“The thing that I really want to reiterate about this is this is not necessarily saying that we are going to spend even one dollar to start with, but we need some enabling legislation to allow us to seek a consultant for this project to make sure that we make the wise decision for the public’s best interest,” said Pearman.
Pearman said there has been an offer from IU Health Starke Hospital in the possible sale of the Starke County facility to IU Health LaPorte Hospital.
“Many people know that we have a lease that we are tied to with IU Health. There has been a basic offer from IU at this point and it had gotten the public in a little bit of an uproar,” said Pearman. “There had been some discussions about, for example, offering the hospital for one dollar. One thing the public wasn’t aware of was that because of the lease that we have, there are several million dollars that we are obliged to pay if we do not continue forward with IU Health. Basically, their offer of one dollar is one dollar plus whatever that amount is.”
He explains why the Commissioners and the Council are seeking a consultant.
“The reason why we’re seeking a consultant is that we want to determine – maybe this offer from IU is giving us is a good offer. Maybe there is an opportunity for us to counter-offer or maybe we want to seek a totally different deal or a totally different partner. This is what a consultant will help us do,” said Pearman.
Pearman was asked how the proposed sale of the hospital could affect the community.
“We want to stay on the mission of Save the Hospital funds. That is to make sure that we have unlimited healthcare for an unlimited amount of time in Starke County. We want to make sure that if we make this decision, local healthcare, local high quality healthcare, will be available to all of our population,” said Pearman.
The county has a lease with IU Health in order to have the hospital in Starke County and that lease is up in four years– but what happens when that lease is up?
“Depending on what either party decides to do, we could be obligated for a very large amount of money to pay for the improvements on the institution,” said Pearman. “Hopefully by the end of that lease we will have some other avenue to take care of this project – a partner that is committed to sustaining healthcare in Starke County.”
Residents are welcome to attend the Starke County Council meeting tonight at 6:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room in the Starke County Annex Building.