County HCA 2010 budget of $946,000 supports multiple services

Blount County Health Care Authority chairman Wendell Ellis responded last week to The Blount Countian’s
request for a review of the agency’s 2010 budget with a detailed discussion of the agency’s current status. The inquiry coincided with Ellis’s presentation to the West Blount Development Association on the authority’s support for building a medical clinic in the relatively unserved western part of the county. (See story pg. A1)

In summary, Ellis’s figures showed the following:

•total projected revenues of $950,000, from two main streams: ad valorem tax revenues of $705,000 from 2-mill ad valorem tax and $215,000 income from leased properties (see below), plus lesser interest income from various sources.

•total projected expenditures of about $946,000 falling into these categories:

•principal plus interest payment on about $3 million of bonded indebtedness (previously issued to finance building of Health Department building and to refurbish old Walmart building for The Gym and retail stores.) $266,000

•operating expenses (auditing/ accounting/legal fees, utilities, and miscellaneous costs) 110,000

•health-related personnel support costs (salaries for five positions funded directly by the health care authority: county mental health officer; two county school system nurses; two juvenile mental health professionals 240,000

•outside agency funding: 330,000 Other agencies supported:

•Blount County Health Department (medical assistance program including prescription drugs for the elderly) $75,000

•Hope House (two substance abuse counselors for the intensive outpatient rehabilitation program) 85,000

•Blount EMS ambulance service 42,000

•Volunteer Rescue and Fire Departments (support programs including advanced life support upgrades) 71,000

•Blount County Children’s Center 35,000

•Jefferson/Blount/St. Clair mental health agency 12,000

•Kid One Transport 10,000

Ellis said the authority has total assets of roughly $24 million, which includes ownership of the leased St. Vincent’s Blount hospital, valued at $14 million, along with the Blount County Health Department building, The Gym and contiguous shopping center, and the Family Services Mall. It has accumulated cash on hand of about $2 million, he said.

Ellis said the health care authority has renovated 45,000 sq. ft. – a substantial part – of the old Blount Memorial Hospital to create the new Family Services Mall, at a total cost of about $2 million, about an eighth of which was covered by a federal grant. About 20,000 sq. ft. of the building remains and will be renovated as needed for future growth and expansion. The building is leased to the Blount County Commission and currently houses Hope House, Quality of Life Clinic, and CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) among other agencies, and will soon house the juvenile court, juvenile probation office, juvenile mental health office, and community corrections.

The authority is currently considering two new projects: helping to provide a medical services clinic in the western section of the county (reported on p. 1 of
this edition),
and renovating the professional building at St. Vincent’s Blount to allow physicians from the Baptist Health Center to move on-site with the hospital.

“There’s something I want to say to the people of Blount County,” Ellis said at the end of the interview. “We’ve got a real good board at the health care authority. Representation is diverse as to areas of the county, age-wise, and men and women. This board takes pride in doing what’s best for the whole county. These dollars, this money, belongs to the county and the people. It doesn’t belong to us, and we need to spend it as wisely as we know how to benefit the county. This board works real hard to do that, and I’m proud of it.”

Other members of that board besides Ellis are Jerry Jones, vice chairman, Sara Holloway, secretary/treasurer, Sarah Holt, Becky McGowan, Gene Wadkins, Jeff Hallmark, Charles Wisdom, and Ramey Peters.