Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 30, 2013

Legislation would pave way for expansion of Garrett hospital

Groundbreaking on $23.5M project expected in spring

OAKLAND — If bills introduced by Garrett County legislators become law, financing for expansion of Garrett County Memorial Hospital will be available at a lower interest rate than that obtainable by the hospital going it alone.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel, will allow county commissioners to borrow up to $15 million on behalf of the hospital by issuing bonds.

The county won’t be paying on the bonds though, said County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt.

The bank will pay bondholders directly.

“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,” said Beitzel.

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.

Groundbreaking is expected in the spring.

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

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

Hearings on the bills are scheduled before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. and before the House Appropriations committee on Feb. 12 at 1 p.m.

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. Staff Writer Elaine Blaisdell also contributed to this story.

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