Winfield hospital purchased by local board

Posted 3/29/18

Let's clean out the notebook ...• There is news for those who have been keeping up with Curae Health, which closed the Haleyville hospital, and for those in West Walker County who might go to …

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Winfield hospital purchased by local board


Let's clean out the notebook ...

• There is news for those who have been keeping up with Curae Health, which closed the Haleyville hospital, and for those in West Walker County who might go to Winfield for medical needs. The Winfield City Council voted March 6 to give $2 million to the Winfield Healthcare Authority for it to purchase the Winfield hospital, Northwest Medical Center, from the same company. (The sale price seemed rather low to some of us for that campus.) It is clear from the Journal Record's reporting of the situation that Winfield Mayor Randy Price was worried about losing the facility in the wake of the Haleyville closing and wanted to secure it, as closing the hospital would be a blow to industrial recruitment. (Price and  Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri connect by way of their seats on the Northwest Alabama Gas District, and they both came to Jasper recently to meet with Jasper Mayor David O'Mary, so I imagine Price heard all the horror stories about Haleyville getting caught off guard.) 

The city is using $2.45 million it got from a property sale to Tiffin Motors; the authority will get the $450,000, too, for operation expense. Curae has signed a letter of intent, and the closing date is March 31. It was indicated the Winfield hospital could now be non-profit, as administrative fees were sent to Curae as a profit concern. If the fees had not been sent to Curae, the hospital would have been close to breaking even. 

What was buried in the story may be another interesting nugget. City leaders are pushing a new 1-cent sales tax increase to help fund the hospital operations. In fact, Winfield city attorney, Todd Atkinson, whose father Bill Atkinson spoke for the healthcare authority at the meeting, indicated the vote to give the money was a pledge to pass the tax. My understanding is that would take the combined sales tax to 10 percent, the highest in the county. And I bet that could lead to some in Walker and Marion counties to reconsider their tax rates. 

• Independents are getting to be the trend, folks. I noticed Fayette County Sheriff Rodney Ingle, who was elected as a write-in candidate after losing in a Democratic primary, is running for re-election as an independent. Meanwhile, Marion County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Jimmy Mills, who is well liked and respected, is running as an independent for District 2 on the Marion County Commission as he wanted to get through the spring tornado season before taking a leave of absence. Mike Davis, a commissioner on the current commission, is retiring and running for Marion County probate judge, as he was denied to be on the Republican ballot. (Sound familiar?) 

Closer to home, Walker County Probate Judge Rick Allison said that his staff is continuing to count names in Mike Cole's bid to get on the November ballot as an independent sheriff candidate, while I assume Tanya Guin is still collecting names for her independent bid for superintendent of education. Bill Cleghorn of Jasper is also trying to start a third party. 

If some more of these candidates have success, you may find a groundswell of candidates who will try to avoid the party labels that have tagged people with controversial national figures and issues. I've heard some say that party labels shouldn't matter on local races, and we may come to the day where you can be independent of not just the party but the headaches. That means less money for your campaign, but sometimes that hasn't translated into many dollars anyway in recent years, from where I sit. (I've also heard of congressional candidates around the nation who have been horrified to hear party leaders give them stiff quotas on how much the candidates must raise in donations to get national support, which has turned off some lesser candidates.) 

• Cleghorn, by the way, has been arguing that Gov. Kay Ivey has the power to call a county alcohol referendum, based on his interpretation of state law. Ivey and her legal staff disagree, and they have sent him several letters that have gotten pretty blunt in time, saying she doesn't have that power and the county will have to get signatures to set up a wet-dry election, the old-fashioned way. That method is not progressing, either, from what I can see. 

• State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, probably didn't win any friendships in Jasper for not signing off on the local bills on the Sunday alcohol sales and the traffic cameras. Other legislators found a way to get the alcohol sales referendum through but it was cutting it close on the traffic cameras, which is a controversial topic in some quarters anyway. Wadsworth was obviously staying in the good graces of ministers (and, yes, we have an election coming), but others questioned his decision as so little of his district, if any, runs in Jasper, leaving them to think he would respect the wishes of his fellow legislator in the delegation. But in the end, he had the right as a member of the county delegation to hold his approval on a local bill. 

• And what I can say about the tiff between sheriff candidate Nick Smith and District 3 Walker County Commissioner Ralph Williams concerning their political signs? Candidates are always concerned and angry about their signs going missing, but it usually simmers below the surface. I've never heard of a formal complaint on a non-opponent who happens to be a county commissioner. I understand it is a misdemeanor, so I don't expect much action on it — although I hear it could be passed on to the state attorney general, and that office can always decide to make an example of someone, if they wanted to. Frankly, there is a chance both men at the center of this could be damaged by this, as I have heard the general feedback has been that they both come off a little childish, although I understand both men's concerns. (Signs, by the way, do not come cheap and no one likes tampering with their property.)

At the same time, I got a voice mail from some documentarian who indicating he is wanting to do a piece on the peanut butter jail break, so there is plenty of issues to keep this sheriff race unpredictable for a while. (And I may take a two-month vacation before the 2020 commission race. I'll need it. We all will.) 

• Can I just say that no matter how you feel on the gun debate, I don't think it is cricket to attack teenagers on Facebook — including the Florida teens who survived the Parkland shooting and led the march in Washington the other day. Some of the ugly things said about them blows my mind. If anyone else attacked ordinary teens and spread rumors about them on social media, we would want to lock them up, much less when they attack kids who survived a school shooting. It is a sign of how sick society is. 

• It was good to see Marion County native Will Dodd, a young aide to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox, at Maddox's Jasper event this week. Dodd did a pretty good speech himself that night; one day I expect we will see him do big things. I am quite proud of how he has turned out. 

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.