From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 33 - November 10, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

RHCD defends clinic move

by Cat Urbigkit

Marbleton officials hosted the Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board for a special session Monday evening, Nov. 7, to discuss the future of the Marbleton/Big Piney Clinic.

Mayor Jim Robinson and council members Sue Hoefer and Bob Beiermann attended the session, as did the entire RHCD board and a few members of the public.

Town officials have expressed their interest in closing the street near the Marbleton clinic in order to provide a larger parcel of property to expand the site for a new clinic.

“We want to keep it here,” Robinson said told the RHCD board.

The purpose of the meeting was for the council to publicly tell the RHCD that the council wants the clinic to stay within town limits.

RHCD Board Chairman Jerry Jensen responded that the proposed new clinic is three times the size of the existing facility. He said with the increased size, and concern for the safety for helicopter access, that location isn’t suitable.

“It got a little western with the helicopter coming in,” Jensen said, referring to recent close encounters between a helicopter and overhead power lines in the area.

“Those can be moved,” Hoefer said.

Board Member Bill Barney said helicopter pilots aren’t as experienced as in the past and accidents are more frequent, so the more clearance the better.

Barney said the board needs to find a suitable parcel of property to accommodate the proposed expanded facility and also provide for further expansion.

Hoefer asked the board, “How many people do you think we’re going to have here in the next 20 years?”

Barney said he believes the Marbleton and Big Piney area will become a focal point for county residents. He said that 25 years ago, Jackson looked like Pinedale does now. He predicted that the county’s working people would soon reside in the Marbleton/Big Piney area.

Hoefer noted that with the current natural gas boom, most workers are coming from Rock Springs and are not residents of the local area. She listened to the RHCD board points, and then responded that she’s seen the boom-and-bust before.

“I’m kind of leery ... I don’t feel like we’re going to have that many people,” Hoefer said.

RHCD Board Member Mary Lynn Worl said in her view the board needs to meet the demands of the population and “the changing dynamics of health care.” She said the new clinic would provide for both an increase in size and increase in services.

Jensen spoke against putting money into a new facility that will only meet the needs of the current population, adding that land will only get more expensive.

Jensen said that the existing site doesn’t provide room for future growth, adding that the board needs a minimum of five or six acres.

Barney said, “The key thing is to put ourselves in a position to supply everything that we can here in Sublette County.”

RHCD Board Member Walt Bousman said that the proposed clinic design calls for three exam rooms per doctor, with several extra rooms for visiting specialists, for a total of 12 patient rooms.

Jensen said in his view, providing the space would encourage other visiting doctors to use the clinic, so these rooms wouldn’t sit empty.

Barney said he was reluctant to discuss specific parcels of property in open session because it could affect what land might be available for the district to purchase.

Barney said, “You’re looking at the biggest single entity in Sublette County that is going to be right here.”

Several RHCD board members suggested that if the town council wanted to go into executive session, it could discuss specific properties under consideration, but Robinson said the council didn’t want to go into executive session.

Barney said that there are aspects of choosing a suitable property that are “very difficult to do in a public meeting,” suggesting that a possible thought becomes cast in stone when it is printed in the newspaper.

Barney suggested the council work with the RHCD board to develop a mechanism to have some district members meet with council members to discuss property outside a public forum. Barney said if a property appears suitable, the board could get an option on the property, at which point the deal becomes public and details could be worked out.

Council members continued to press their preference for leaving the clinic at its existing location, suggesting actions that could be taken to make the location larger and more accessible.

Jensen said he couldn’t see “spending that much money on something that will only meet the needs now and not in the future.”

Barney said he hasn’t heard any compelling reason not to move the clinic, except that townspeople are comfortable with the existing location.

Robinson said not only is the existing location comfortable, but “it’s accessible.”

Bousman said before the RHCD casts votes on purchasing a piece of property, he would like to be able to call up a council member to discuss the issue. Robinson suggested that any council member could be contacted.

RHCD Board Member Garry Eiden Sr. noted that in the boom 20 years ago, Exxon had predicted each town would have a population of 2,500, but that never happened.

“When they left they said we’d be lucky to see 150 people between Big Piney and Marbleton and LaBarge,” Eiden noted, making a comparison with current events and workers coming from Rock Springs rather than becoming permanent residents.

Hoefer expressed concern about overbuilding, as did Councilman Bob Beiermann who said, “I just don’t want it to look like Jeffrey City.”

“Maybe it will be a little too big for right now, but I don’t think it is,” Jensen said.

“I like where the clinic is at and I want it to stay in Marbleton” said Robinson, emphasizing that the council would be willing to work to make the existing location the right location for the new clinic.

Barney said, “If there is no other alternative, we could make that work.”

Hoefer said the main point she wanted to make is that the council would like to keep the clinic in town.

Jensen said the board understood that, adding, “That’s been our goal.”

Jensen said he hopes to break ground by spring if the land can be acquired.

Eiden said he thinks it is great that the Town of Marbleton is so willing to work with the RHCD to accommodate the clinic.

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