Keep HCA meetings open
Mar 24, 2011 | 2858 views |  1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It would be difficult to overstate the importance to this area of the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair hospital. The facility will provide health care critical for a growing population, and both its construction and its future operation will provide jobs and pump needed money into the local economy.

Plans for the new hospital are to provide a state-of-the-art facility that all will be proud to have in Pell City and will trust with their lives. A health care provider as reputable as St. Vincent’s could tolerate nothing less.

The sudden change of construction companies this week and a more than tripling of the budget for site work is troubling.

The reason the St. Clair County Health Care Authority members gave for the change was that only two weeks after hiring Goodgame Co. of Pell City to complete the site work, the authority determined that Goodgame would be unable to meet the construction deadlines.

Jason Goodgame told the Daily Home that his company had been asked to step away from the project and he had complied. He pointed out that the prospective replacement company, Hoar Construction, had been contracted to perform some of the work concurrently with Goodgame and already had the staff and equipment on site to move ahead quickly.

Even if Hoar is hired to replace Goodgame, however, the site work deadlines cannot be met. One of the deadlines already had been missed by a month when Goodgame was hired. The best that can happen is that further delays will be minimized.

Water and sewer work were supposed to have been in place by Feb. 10, and the projected date for providing electricity and natural gas to the site was April 4. Hoar told the authority in a letter dated March 10 that the date for electrical service has been postponed until April 21 and that the date for water service remained undetermined.

Reducing construction delays is a valid reason for such a change and would not seem to require closing a portion of Tuesday’s Health Care Authority meeting to the public.

Attorney John Rea’s assertion that Hoar Construction’s letter poses possible “serious legal claims” is disturbing. What are the claims?

The hospital is being built through a network of public and private agencies and local governments working through the quasi-public Health Care Authority, which will own the building and lease it to St. Vincent’s, but the money to build it ultimately comes from city and county taxes.

The very complicated nature of the agreement demands that all of the decisions and transactions regarding construction of the hospital be open to public inspection, despite the contention that the Health Care Authority is not bound by the state’s Open Meetings Act. Closing a meeting or any portion of it creates the impression that the authority has something to hide from the public. This is unacceptable.