Updated: Oct 2, 2021
MOUND CITY –Commissioner Danny McCullough told the Linn County Commission that Jesse Willard, who owns the former Prescott nursing home building, has called him a few times to ask him what he should do about forming a hospital district and what districts to use.
McCullough said that he told him to carry a petition, but he was not sure what areas to tell him to use.
Linn County Counselor Gary Thompson said that he thought it was made clear to Willard that the first thing he needed to do was to talk to the leaders of the Scott-Lincoln hospital board to see if they had any interest in abandoning their district.
McCullough said that Willard was not able to go to the scheduled meeting with that hospital board and sent a representative. The representative did not receive an answer.
Commission Chair Rick James said that made it sound like they were not interested.
McCullough asked again what direction he could tell Willard to go.
Thompson said Willard had to make the decision of the district he was proposing.
McCullough said he was in favor of putting a hospital district in place but did not know what was best.
Thompson reminded McCullough that a separate hospital board had been set up in the Prescott area, which included the former nursing home. However, that board never disbanded, and that blocked creating another hospital district in that area.
James said he did not want three people to decide this for the county for a public business.
James said that Willard wanted Commissioner Jim Johnson and McCullough to decide for him that you form your two districts, without public input, approve it and go up to 4 mills because the commission can and he wants you to charge the taxpayers $390,000 a year for a public-use business.
“Profit or non-profit, it does not matter if it is coming out of my taxes,” said James. “I’m just telling you that you can let him go out and get the 51 percent of the vote. Let him do the work and if the public wants it, we will have to approve it.”
Johnson said that Willard had to decide what he wanted to do. Johnson also said that he was not in favor of levying a tax without taxpayers’ approval.
McCullough said it had nothing to do with opening a nursing home, and that he was just really in favor of starting a hospital district. He added that he wanted to make sure that everything was in place for that to happen.
After all, McCullough said, the county gives money to Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center and the Linn County Fair Board.
I want to get something going instead of just kicking it down the road all of the time, said McCullough.
McCullough asked if it would be beneficial to have a hospital district where the county doesn’t have a district but more as a savings account for a company that wants to come into get something going?
James told McCullough that he was trying to understand – if you (McCullough) had your druthers you would have a hospital district for Pleasanton to support the nursing home there?
"If that's what we have to do," McCullough said.
McCullough suggested it could be an incentive to get a business here.
Thompson said he was neither for nor against that, but it was a philosophical question about whether you wanted to use tax money to support a private business. He said he had not thought about using a hospital district that way and did not think that it was in the spirit of how the law was intended. Thompson said that a hospital district was usually formed for a specific facility to see if people wanted to support it.
James suggested that the commission would not form a tax district without voter input, and that Willard needed to decide on the area and carry a petition.
Thompson added that Willard needed to get legal advice about the petition.