by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
September 3, 1998
The location of Seeley Lake's new health care facility may once again be reconsidered, following a proposal submitted to the hospital district board in recent weeks.
Dave Stewart, Sr., who owns property next to Highway 83 between the 1-Stop and Valley Market in Seeley Lake, offered to sell one of his lots to the hospital district at a reduced price and with favorable interest rates after he read in the Pathfinder that the hospital district trustees had decided to build a new facility next to the existing Medical Center because the cost of land with highway frontage in Seeley Lake exceeded their budget.
Trustees discussed his proposal at a meeting on August 24 and again on August 31, and generally agreed that a new health care facility would be more accessible to local residents if it were located on one of Stewart's lots.
However, board members were cautious as they considered Stewart's proposal.
"The issue is not just accessibility," according to board member, Tim Love. "We have to provide a clear explanation for our financial decisions," he said. The hospital district, which is a tax-based entity within Missoula County, owns the Seeley Swan Medical Center building and the land surrounding it. The Medical Center is operated by a subsidiary of St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, which leases the site from the hospital district. Representatives of St. Patrick Hospital have indicated that they will pay for construction of a new medical facility through increased lease fees.
Currently, the hospital district is working with a proposed budget for new construction of about $400,000 expected to be provided in low interest loans from Blackfoot Telephone, Inc. Architects estimate that construction of the new Medical Center at the current site will cost about $350,000. Without creative financing, trustees indicated that they probably still do not have enough money in their budget to purchase land along Highway 83, but they would like to discuss various options with financial consultants.
At Monday night's meeting, trustees agreed that they would also like to talk with representatives of St. Patrick's Hospital before the regular board meeting on September 14.
Board member Jack Copps explained that trustees don't want to sacrifice the quality of the new Medical Center in order to buy land. However, he and other trustees, acknowledged that locating a new facility along the highway might better serve residents of Seeley Lake and neighboring communities. "It's important that we have a vision and think about what a medical center needs to provide in this comunity 10 years from now," Copps said, citing services such as a long-term care facility and physical therapy offices.
Dave Stewart, Sr., who, along with his wife, Jan, and son, Dave, is a partner in The Stewart Group, LLC management consultants, commented that, "In health care, you don't want to be driving a horse and buggy. You want to be state of the art."
Stewart indicated that he was pleased that hospital district trustees were willing to consider his proposal. "I hope everyone leaves this meeting realizing that we are trying to do everything possible to make this work. This could be a win-win situation for everybody," he said.
The Stewarts live at Lindbergh Lake and have owned property in the Seeley Swan for about 20 years. They were contacted earlier by realtors who were helping the hospital district look at properties that were available along Highway 83. However, Dave Stewart pointed out that he has been willing to work with the board all along but that there had been a miscommunication in recent months.
The Stewart's have drafted several options for a possible sale of the property to the hospital district, including long-term, low-interest contracts or using the existing medical center property as a down payment on the new lot.
Hospital district trustees had hoped to begin construction of the new facility this fall, after voting last month to go forward with plans to build the new medical center next to the existing one.