2015-03-12 / Front Page

City leaders to explore possible help for Wills Memorial Hospital finances

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The City of Washington is entering into discussions to financially support Wills Memorial Hospital, an attorney for the city told councilmen at Monday night’s regular meeting of the city council.

“Our office has been contacted by counsel for the Wilkes County Hospital Authority asking for the city to enter into discussions for financial support for Wills Memorial Hospital,” said attorney Adam Nelson. “The negotiations at this time are preliminary – we’re going to be talking not only with the authority but with the county to determine what their request is, and see what the city can do. Unless I hear objection from the council, we’ll continue those conversations, and when we get to a point where we understand where everybody is, we’ll present it to the council.”

Nelson, a partner of City Attorney Barry Fleming, said that a called meeting might be necessary toward the end of March for the council to consider any proposal.

“I believe there’s a way we can help the hospital,” said Mayor Ames Barnett after the meeting. “We’ll have to see.”

The mayor opened the meeting with an update on city finances. “The city is doing great,” he said. “Thanks to the efforts of the department heads and the city administrator, we’ve been able to cut expenses and cut costs, and we’re finally able to pass some of the savings on to the citizens. We’ve been able to cut $228,000 from the amount we collect in utility bills so it can go back to the citizens. It’s a substantial amount of money, and things are going in the right direction. Thank you everybody for making this happen.”

The council passed several items of routine business, including a resolution to apply for a 2015 CDBG grant for a water/sewer project, a resolution modifying the development target area, and an agreement for the city to participate in the GMA Georgia Cities Week April 19-25.

The council also agreed to write off some $120,000 in delinquent utility bills that the city’s collection company deemed to be uncollectible due to the death or bankruptcy of the debtor. “This is the first time we’ve written anything off since 2001,” City Administrator Sherri Bailey said.

Finally, the council approved board appointments including Acetra McWilliams to the Mary Willis Library board, Richard Crabbe to the Board of Zoning Appeals (Signs), and the reappointment of Robert Williams to the Housing Authority Board.

The next regular meeting of the Washington City Council is set for Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m. at The Pope Center.

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