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Commissioners ponder cutting hospital funds

Screven County commissioners who are struggling to meet a budget deficit between $500,000 to $800,000 are considering cutting funds for the county hospital by $100,000.
Commissioners agreed Tuesday to hold a workshop soon with hospital officials to discuss the idea.
The county had given the hospital $600,000 for each of three years and then $800,000 last year. Commissioners J.C. Warren and Will Boyd said they are interested in possibly cutting that $800,000 to $700,000 this year.
Warren said everyone in the community is suffering and cutting back because of the poor economy and he thinks the hospital should share the pain.
Not all the commissioners think cutting funds to the hospital is a good idea. “I’m strongly opposed to any cuts in hospital funding,” said Commissioner Roland Stubbs.
Commissioners working on the budget for the next fiscal year began negotiations in recent weeks with a $780,000 deficit, said County Manager Rick Jordan. They whittled that amount down to $500,000 but it’s now back up to $600,000 as negotiations continue, he said.
Dr. William Kent, who works in the hospital’s emergency room, was at the commission meeting and said he’s glad the commissioners at least agreed to discuss the idea with hospital officials before taking action.
“That hospital teeters on closing all the time,” Kent said. He said out of 20 patients, 15 are private pay, “and they don’t pay.” It’s a big problem that’s only grown because of the poor economy.
Meanwhile, debate between the county and the City of Sylvania over who will pay for 911 dispatchers continues.
The county asked the city in November to pay for one dispatcher at an annual cost of $25,000. The city recently agreed to pay half that amount.
Commissioners on Tuesday rejected the city’s proposal and reiterated their demand for the entire $25,000. “I say they pay for it or they do their own” dispatching, said Warren.
In other action, the commission agreed to:
• Spend $450,000 for road work, with most of the money going to re-pave Ogeechee Road.
• Start the process to abandon six-tenths of a mile of Cypress Pond Road, in order to close a dangerous railroad crossing.
• Pay $12,400 to replace six sets of glass doors at the courthouse. The doors are in bad repair and some can be locked only with a chain and padlock.
• Pay $12,400 to set up dumpsters in Cooperville. Plans originally called for a recycling center there, but that has been postponed indefinitely because of budget problems.