Cumberland Times-News

April 9, 2013

Bill to help finance Garrett hospital expansion passes

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — Legislation to help finance expansion of Garrett County Memorial Hospital has passed the General Assembly and is on a list of bills that Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he plans to sign.

The bill allows county commissioners to borrow up to $15 million on behalf of the hospital by issuing bonds. That will allow financing at a lower interest rate than by the hospital alone seeking loans.

O’Malley has several bill-signing ceremonies in the coming days and it was unclear if the bill was signed Tuesday.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel.

Garrett County won’t be paying on the bonds though, County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt said in a previous interview.

“The hospital will pay back the entire amount,” Pagenhardt said.

The county will act as a conduit for the funding, allowing the loan to be “bank-qualified” and backed by the full faith and credit of Garrett County, resulting in a lower interest rate.

“The county would be arranging for the financing of those bonds and, through the county, they could get the bonds at a much cheaper rate,” Beitzel has said.

The hospital project includes a new four-story addition to the existing hospital with a focus on improvements to in-patient units and an additional 42,000 square feet of major renovations.

The total cost of the project is $23.5 million and includes a $15 million request from the county and $8.5 million in cash contributions and fundraising, hospital officials have said.

Garrett County requires the approval of the General Assembly to borrow large sums, legislators said.

The money being borrowed for the hospital does not affect a separate bond authorization available to the county, said Pagenhardt.

The hospital also continues to pay off two other bonds, one from 2004 in the amount of $1.4 million and one from 2007 in the amount of $3 million, Pagenhardt said. Those bonds also funded hospital improvements.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.