Hospital legal battle continues; waterline rates approved

Jill Vang of Martin-Starnes and Associates presents the 2015 audit to the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners.

Kitsey Burns Harrison | Yadkin Ripple

On Monday at its first meeting of the new calendar year, the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners heard a report regarding the county’s 2015 audit from Jill Vang of Martin-Starnes and Associates. Though there were a few findings in the audit, the overall audit was given an unmodified opinion. Vang said that was a clean opinion and the best that can be given.

She also noted that the county staff was very cooperative and easy to work with.

“I’m happy with our audit, I thought it was a really good audit,” Chairman Kevin Austin said. “There were a few things pointed out there, there’s always room for improvement.”

Austin went on to say he was very pleased with auditing group Martin-Starnes and the work they had done for the county over the last few years.

Human Services Director Kim Harrell gave a brief report to the board as well. Harrell noted that the DSS department was working on the ABAWDS (Able-bodied adults without dependents) food stamp program which includes around 200 cases in the county. A federal waiver on the work requirement for those in the ABAWDs program ended in 2015 and Harrell said a letter went out Jan. 1 regarding the reinstated work requirement.

“We’re in the process of reaching out to the Employment Security Commission as a referral source for any of our ABAWDs cases that are eligible,” Harrell said.

A budget amendment in regard to upkeep expenses at the former Yadkin Valley Community Hospital through June 2016 was approved by the commissioners at Monday’s meeting. A second budget amendment also was approved in regard to ongoing legal expenses in the case against the former hospital operations company.

HMC/CAH, the former operators of the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital, closed down the hospital in May of last year, defying a temporary restraining order meant to keep the hospital open through the end of HMC/CAH’s lease term of July 31, 2015. The county and HMC/CAH have been locked in a legal battle ever since. In June of 2015, Judge Terrence Boyle found HMC/CAH in contempt of court for defying the restraining order and ordered them to pay financial damages to the county.

“This is not the fault of our outside counsel these additional expenses,” said County Attorney Ed Powell during Monday’s meeting. “It’s the fault of the former hospital operator in that they have filed a lot of repetitive documents that have no basis in law or fact and they continue to file these and unfortunately our counsel has to file responses to those which are the same responses we’ve been filing for seven months.”

Austin said, “I think they’re trying to kill us by death by a thousand cuts” of former hospital operator HMC/CAH.

“They’re trying everything they can to make us spend more money,” Powell added. Powell and County Manager Lisa Hughes speculated that HMC/CAH’s continued filing of unnecessary court documents may serve only to annoy the judge in the case who already has ruled in the county’s favor.

“In the hearing we had in November he [Judge Boyle] made a particular point to say to the counsel for the hospital operator that he was still holding criminal contempt as a valid measure that he was going to consider,” Powell said.

Two other items approved on Monday by the board are in regard to two of the major ongoing projects in the county.

A policy for donations and room naming opportunities at the new Agriculture and Education building at the Yadkin Center of Surry Community College was approved. The donation rates are to be based upon $10 per square foot for a 10-year or 180 percent of that for a 20-year commitment. Donations for the room naming will help cover ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the facility.

Out-of-town water rates for those along the route of the new East Bend Water line also were approved on Monday. The East Bend waterline project is slated to begin soon. The waterline will come from the Forsyth County water treatment center near the Yadkin River in the Enon community, up Flint Hill Road to the town of East Bend. Residents along the path of the waterline may connect to the line if they choose.

“Just to make sure everybody is clear, we are not going to charge any kind of assessment fees and nobody is going to be forced to connect to the waterline,” Hughes stated.

The rate structure for those along the waterline’s route, but outside the town limits, will be $30 per month for zero to 2,000 gallons and an additional $9.14 per additional thousand gallons. There also will be an agricultural rate of $8 per thousand gallons from zero to 20,000, $6.50 per thousand gallons for 20,001 to 60,000 gallons and $5 per thousand gallons from over 60,000 gallons.

The connection fee will be waived for those signing up for connection to the waterline prior to the issuance of the construction bid package as well as discounted rates on the waterline connection. A three-quarter-inch connection will be $500, a one-inch connection will be $1,000, a one-and-a-half-inch connection $3,000 and a two-inch connection, $4,100.

Following the issuance of the construction bid package, the rates go back to normal at $1,500 for a three-quarter-inch line, $2,000 for a one-inch line, $4,000 for a one-and-half-inch line and $5,100 for a two-inch line. The connection fee will be $150 for single-family dwellings and $450 for all others.

The county offices will be closed on Jan. 18 for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The next meeting of the Yadkin County commissioners will be at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 in the Commissioners’ Chambers of the Yadkin County Human Services Building, located at 217 E. Willow St. in Yadkinville.

Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.

Jill Vang of Martin-Starnes and Associates presents the 2015 audit to the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners. Vang of Martin-Starnes and Associates presents the 2015 audit to the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners. Kitsey Burns Harrison | Yadkin Ripple
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