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Commission explains hospital situation, moves forward with tax proposal

The Crenshaw County Commission has, as of its Monday, March 25 meeting, voted unanimously to move forward with a proposal for a 5-year 3-mill county ad valorem property tax. The proposal would first need to move through the Alabama state legislature, presumably when it meets next for the current session. Although the legislature is expected to reconvene March 31, COVID-19 could disrupt proceedings.

If passed, the tax proposal would be placed on the general election ballot in November of this year for county voters to decide on.

This step is a culmination of a process involving the Crenshaw Community Hospital that the county has been working on since September.

Because the process involves still-ongoing litigation with the former manager PRM (Professional Resource Management), much of the information has been and will continue to be contained within executive session meetings and, as such, details may not be fully available until the litigation has concluded.

In short, the Crenshaw County Health Authority has been managing the Crenshaw Community Hospital since September, when PRM informed the county and Authority it would no longer be managing the hospital.

Because of issues with the transition to a new management company, the commission became involved in litigation with PRM which has delayed the transition to the new management company, Alliant.

PRM of Crenshaw filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being sued by the Crenshaw Health Care Authority in state court, according to county attorney Levi Nichols.

The proposed tax would be to service the debt that the Health Care Authority has accrued in its time managing the hospital.

Commission chair Charlie Sankey, Jr. said the commission carefully considered what kind of tax to propose.

“We decided our best opportunity is an ad valorem tax. We looked at a 5-mill tax and found it would yield more money than needed. The 3-mill tax seemed fairer. We looked at a variety of ways, measuring fairness to citizens versus servicing the debt,” Sankey explained.

Sankey said that he dislikes taxes but knew the commission had to take action, as it has since September, to make sure the hospital remains fully operational.

“The only way I agreed to introduce this [tax proposal] is with the 5-year “sunset.” I think it gives enough time for the hospital board to service the existing debt,” he said.

County attorney Levi Nichols said that currently, Alliant is expected to take over management of the CCH as of April 1.

Alliant is based in Louisville, KY., and among the hospitals it manages is Mizell Memorial Hospital in Opp.

Alliant CEO Jim L. Coleman, Jr. released a statement on Wednesday.

“These are such uncertain times for all communities.  We know that the local hospital is always the frontline of any challenge, in regular times, and also like what is currently happening across the country.  It is times like this that the need for local healthcare is so critical,” Coleman said.

“For these reasons, Alliant Management Services is especially pleased to commit our 40-plus years of expertise to support the vital role and mission of Crenshaw County Hospital. Alliant exclusively specializes in rural hospital management and understands the unique challenges of operating smaller hospitals, balancing fiscal responsibility and national standards for quality care. We bring highly qualified resources and team members to support the local team onsite at the hospital.  Together we will develop strategies and metrics for moving the hospital

forward.   We want the citizens of Crenshaw County to know we will work diligently to do the right thing for all involved- patients, employees, and the broader community,” he concluded.

The Luverne Journal will continue to update readers on this issue.