Seeley Swan to Welcome

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$400,000 loan not enough
to start Medical Center construction

by Gary Noland
For the Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
July 15, 1999

Tim Love, recently elected chairman of the Seeley Swan Medical Center, said last week that construction of a new health center is getting closer with approval of a USDA $400,000 loan, but that another $100,000, needed to begin construction, could hold things up.

And, even with a $400,000 loan that is interest-free through Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative and the United States Department of Agriculture, local trustees are still pursuing other avenues of finance and possible grants.

One proposal in congress, not yet approved, calls for a $500,000 grant in the year 2000. That would make the loan, and susequent payback, even without interest, unnecessary, but odds for the grant are not considered favorable.

"It's a long shot," Love conceded, but it has been introduced.

In the meantime, the $400,000 interest-free loan is assured, and board member Jack Copps, interviewed last week along with Love, said "this is a great opportunity for the community."

The only hitch is that another $100,000 is needed to proceed with the building plans.

That amount could be raised, Copp said, by asking voters to approve a 7-mill levy for a couple years. The center is automatically allotted 3 mills annually for operations, but voters can approve additional mill levies, up to 7 mills, is they choose.

Each mill brings in around $8,000, so 7 mills would raise $56,000 annually for a couple years, covering the required shortage of $100,000, Copp said.

Another possibility is to launch a mail campaign to raise contributions, and or to mesh with a mill levy vote, Copp added.

The interest-free loan that has been approved will save the community $20,000 in interest annually over the ten years repayment is scheduled.

And, with increased revenues at the center and its partnership with St. Patrick's Hospital in Missoula, no mill levy will be required to repay the loan, according to Love and Copp.

Though construction of the $500,000 facility is being planned for the current location, both Love and Copp said a Highway 83 location, explored last year, is preferred but will have to happen by the generosity of someone who could make available highway frontage at no additional cost to the district.

"A Highway 83 location will general additional business," Copp said, "but we'll need the generosity of someone with Highway 83 frontage land to make it happen." The center will consider swapping the land at its current site, both board members agreed.

In the meantime, the center, once burdened with a $110,000 debt to the county, has reduced that debt in half and at the current rate of repaymnet, the debt will be eliminated in a year and a half.

Copp praised St. Patrick's Hospital for "...their willingness to become a full partner in providing good quality health services in this area has made the difference in what we're able to do here."

Love requested that people who might have ideas or thoughts on possibilities regarding raising the additional $100,000 or the Highway 83 location to contact him.

"We can use some community input," he said.

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