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RVHS debt canceled county help

County commissioners said legal limitations prevented them from assisting River Valley Health System with its poor finances.

Friday, January 19, 2001

County commissioners said legal limitations prevented them from assisting River Valley Health System with its poor finances.

"Don’t think we haven’t done everything we can do," commission president Paul Herrell said Thursday, just after an executive session with hospital leaders.

The county started work on a $500,000 bond, got Ohio and federal lawmakers involved and even asked county Department of Job and Family Services director Buddy Martin to see if state monetary resources were available, Herrell said.

"But if we put any money at that hospital, we’re picking up that liability," he said.

The county approved the bond last month but rescinded that action later after being misinformed about the hospital’s debt, Herrell said.

The debt is four times greater than what commissioners were originally told, and they owe millions borrowed from state development authorities for construction, he said.

Commissioners secured legal advice, including opinions from a bond attorney in Cincinnati, that show the county cannot spend tax dollars at the hospital.

"We’ve got four legal opinions and we’re going to follow them," Herrell said.

The county cannot ask its taxpayers to become liable for a $17 million debt, he said.

"I regret it because of the people will be without jobs and I’m worried about their insurance, but I don’t know anything else we can do."

Hospital board members have apparently asked the county to take some responsibility.

The county owns the land and buildings but by law the hospital board operates RVHS. Commissioners said that RVHS turned the county away when it sought to help several years ago.

"In my opinion, there are six board members and an administrator who need to accept responsibility for what happened there," commissioner George Patterson said.

, speaking of the former board’s tenure.