December 15, 2016 10:43:00 AM A consultant is advising Oktibbeha County supervisors to put the potential sale of OCH Regional Medical Center to a public vote. Ted Woodrell, of Woodrell Consulting, made the recommendation in a letter submitted Tuesday via email to each of the county’s supervisors. After an eight-point review of a Dec. 6 public hearing about the hospital, he also advises the board to continue to seek advice from the county’s legal counsel at Jackson-based Butler Snow. “A decision to seek a referendum may be the best way to garner the you could look here entire community’s input,” Woodrell wrote. “This should be strongly considered and discussed with Butler Snow.” The board hired Woodrell Consulting earlier in the year to assist supervisors and hospital administration in determining which firm would conduct an analysis of OCH — an analysis being the first required legal step before selling or leasing a publicly-owned hospital. Supervisors hired Tennessee-based Stroudwater and Associates, which submitted a report in October. Stroudwater’s report stated OCH generates adequate cash flow to stay in operation and service its existing debt load on a standalone basis, but an annual gap of $3 million to $4 million exists between current operating results and needed levels of performance before strategic capital investments are considered. The report suggested supervisors seek transaction proposals for the hospitals, which has sparked fears in the community that the board will press ahead in an attempt to sell the facility. In an interview, Woodrell told The Dispatch he believes the magnitude of the decision about whether to sell or lease the hospital or keep it as a publicly-owned facility compels a voter referendum. “This is such a big decision that I suggested they go ahead with a referendum,” he said. “This is a huge decision for Oktibbeha County. I believe in the democratic process. Let the people vote.” Supervisors will ultimately choose whether the matter goes to a referendum if a petition fails to gather enough signatures to force the matter. Frank Davis, a former Starkville alderman and supporter of OCH as a publicly-owned hospital, is spearheading efforts to get enough signatures to force a hospital transaction to a vote. Davis recently told The Dispatch his effort is close to the 1,500 signatures required by law and will continue until it reaches 2,000 signatures.
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