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Hospital tax vote is May 7th


The Chambers County Commission approved last week a measure that will allow county voters the chance to decide on a proposed four-mill property tax increase for funding of George H. Lanier Memorial Hospital in Valley. The vote will come on a May 7 special election.

The cost of the referendum will be paid for by the hospital, according to the commission. Commission Chair Debbie Wood made clear that the proposal “is not our tax,” and noted that the commission is simply giving the public the right to vote on the tax. County Attorney Skip McCoy estimated the cost of the election would be approximately $35,000, which the hospital board has agreed to pay.

If approved the tax increase would begin in 2013 and continue for 10 years. According to the resolution drafted, the proceeds from the tax would be used by the hospital for “capital expenditures as to constructing, equipping and maintaining Lanier Memorial Hospital…or the pledging of the proceeds from said tax to the payment of bonds, notes or other indebtedness.”

The resolution further states that if the hospital were to cease operations, the tax would be eliminated.

In a previous Rules, Ways and Means Committee meeting, Chattahoochee Valley Hospital Society President Bill Scott and Lanier CEO Doug Dewberry made a presentation to the committee stressing the need for further financing. They outlined the hospitals role as the major employer in the county and the importance of emergency health care availability. They also discussed the financial strains the hospital has been experiencing. Like most small rural hospitals, Lanier has felt the financial impact of reduced reimbursements from private insurers and heavy loads of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

At the meeting, the commission also heard an extensive report from Sheriff Sid Lockhart. First, Lockhart presented certificates of commendation to Deputy Cody Still and Sgt. Bryan Yates for their role in stopping a home invasion and assault. On Dec. 3, 2012, Still and Yates responded to an emergency call on Co. Rd. 258. They observed a subject fleeing the residence in question and subsequently chased him down and detained him. It was soon learned that the quick response had interrupted a break-in, in which the resident was severely beaten.

Lockhart introduced Deputy Terry Daniel to the commission and said he was named Deputy of the Quarter for the department. Daniel is in the process of helping reorganize the SWAT team for the department.

The sheriff also recognized a few new members to the department. The new deputies are Daniel, Michael Meacham, Derick Wright, Teddy Morris and Todd Meacham. Tommy High has been promoted to sergeant and will replace the retiring Tim Sanders.