Letter to Editor – Vice Chairman of Patrick County Economic Development Authority

As Vice Chairman of the Patrick County Economic Development Authority, I am compelled to correct a number of misrepresentations made by two members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors (BOS), Dr. Boyce and Mr. Weiss.

On the hospital, Dr. Boyce has stated on numerous occasions, the BOS in 2017 directed he and County Administrator, Tom Rose, to not interfere with the EDA’s efforts to reopen the hospital. The actual facts are contained in the Board motion “On motion by Jane Fulk to appoint the EDA to lead negotiations and all matters pursuant to the hospital seconded by Crystal Harris and carried unanimously” (February 21, 2018). You will notice the “…EDA to lead negotiations…”  and nothing states that Dr. Boyce or Mr. Rose should not interfere. In fact, it seems to encourage them to work with the EDA as we lead the negotiations on all matters.

Dr. Boyce did have conversation with Novant and did pass that along to the EDA. The EDA followed up with the provider and was told there wasn’t any interest in operating in Patrick County.  However, Dr. Boyce continues to this day to proclaim the EDA is solely responsible for the opportunity not materializing because we didn’t contact them.

Dr. Boyce continues to claim the EDA should have talked with “the Governor’s office” like he had, but they “never made an effort.” Here are the facts surrounding that statement, through a FOIA request to “the Governor’s Office” I found out the following series of events:

E-mail chains from Marvin Figueroa, Deputy Director of Health and Human Relations (HHR) show the beginning of the request to contact Dr. Boyce and Mr. Rose started at 12:09 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 and culminated with the conference call at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018.

A follow-up call from Dr. Boyce to Jennifer Bean, Executive Assistant to the office of the Secretary of HHR discloses Dr. Boyce inquiring if there is any update. Ms. Beam responds in an e-mail at 9:04 a.m. on Sept. 24, 2018 that “Unfortunately, there currently are no updates” to which Dr. Boyce replies in an e-mail the same day at 2:48 p.m. “Thank you very much. I shall put on a happy face and carry on.”

Dr. Boyce’s claim that the EDA never met with “the Governor’s Office” is totally incorrect because a month earlier on July 9, 2018 Debbie Foley, Dale Puckett, Ron Haley, Glenn Roycroft, and Bill Clark met with Mr. Marvin Figueroa, Wayne Waldrop, Jane Henderson, Clyde Cornett, Will Groves and Senator Stanley on this very subject. Please note that Mr. Figueroa is the same individual Dr. Boyce talked to but the EDA had met with a month earlier. Dr. Boyce’s claim that the EDA never met with “the Governor’s Office” is a total fabrication for political purposes.

In addition, The Enterprise reported that Senator Stanley also debunked Dr. Boyce’s claim on a recent visit to Patrick County.

On the article which appeared in the New York Times, Dr. Boyce and Mr. Weiss have stated I contacted the New York Times to plant an article about the hospital. The facts are, Sarah Rankin, a reporter with the Associated Press (AP) in Richmond wrote the original article about our hospital closing.  After returning from maternity leave, she wanted to see what ever happened to the hospital.  She tried to contact County Administrator Mr. Rose who was out on sick leave so she wound up with the Economic Development Director. After responding to her questions, she inquired if there was anyone on the EDA Board she could interview.  Mr. Simmons referred her to me.  I got a call from her and made the following statements: “At this point in time there is no active discussion around reopening the hospital. … That’s not to say it could never reopen. But the sun, the stars and the moon would have to align pretty closely to get it reopened,”  I stand by my quotes for many reasons, not the least of which is the current $5 million price tag for the facility and the many millions it would cost to bring the hospital up to current hospital building codes since it can no longer be grandfathered.  You will notice I NEVER said it was dead or that the EDA was not continuing other discussions of health care options in the county.   I do not see a hospital operator agreeing to locate in the hospital building as it is today and in its current financial state the county cannot afford the hospital and necessary repairs.  Thus, things WOULD have to align correctly to open it.

Dr. Boyce has said he has a path to re-opening the hospital with little to no county debt or tax increase. He has been saying this for 3 years and what does the County have. Nothing but empty promises and baseless finger pointing. He refuses to work with the EDA with any information he has and has been ineffective in making progress by himself.

The EDA would welcome working with members of the BOS. The EDA wants expanded healthcare as much as any citizen of Patrick. We also get sick or injured and would much prefer to be treated quickly and locally as opposed to taking a 30-45 minute trip. This is why the EDA formed the Healthcare Advisory Committee. For anyone, especially a member of the BOS, to declare the EDA does not want a hospital or qualified healthcare solutions should be grounds to have them defeated in the upcoming election. How disrespectful can an elected official be to the citizens of Patrick County.

Concerning the “Financial and Operational Advisory Commission” resolution, Mr. Weiss has said it was “all done in secret and wasn’t supposed to surface until after the election.” In his rant, Mr. Weiss said “This document was never supposed to surface until after the election. Because after the election if only one supervisor wins, if Lock Boyce is defeated, they control the Board of Supervisors, if Keith Puckett is defeated, they control the board if Karl Weiss is defeated, they control the board because they already have two.”

Here are the facts:  The EDA Agenda for June 12, 2019, June 27, 2019, July 25, 2019, August 22, 2019 and September 26, 2019 all clearly show an agenda item of “Financial Advisory Commission Resolution.”  Discussions of this Resolution were held in public session and voted upon in public session. Mr. Weiss is as uninformed and unqualified as ever when he doesn’t take the time to even look at a public agenda for 5 meetings in a row. In addition, the Resolution was presented in open session to the Board of Supervisors on October 7, 2019 prior to the upcoming election. When presented it was clearly stated that no one expects each BOS member to be experts in all fields. The Commission was drafted and states the BOS would be fully in charge of creating the Commission, the members of the Commission, the function of the Commission, and receiving reports of the Commission. In other words, the EDA would not be involved.

A paragraph of the resolution says: “Such Commission shall consist of unpaid citizens of the county, not currently employed by the County of Patrick or their direct relations, or contracted by the County of Patrick, but may be a member of any unpaid Committee, Authority or other Commission.  Commission members should be of varied expertise including but not limited to Finance Banking, Insurance, Human Resources, Accounting, Engineering, Information Technology and Operations.” This is in direct conflict with Dr. Boyce’s and Mr. Weiss’ statement that the EDA wants to be in charge. It was just our suggestion to the BOS that they could use this vehicle to get some independent volunteer help as had been successfully done in Suffolk, VA years ago. How could the document supposedly be secret when it was discussed in open session meetings of the EDA for 5 months and presented in open session of the Board of Supervisors? Why wouldn’t the BOS want independent expert volunteers, that they appoint, to help them in understanding some of the complex matters of the county.

Finally, Mr. Weiss has accused me of making the statement “I feel like this information was withheld intentionally” when referring either to the EDA’s work on the hospital or the Commission discussed above. Mr. Weiss is absolutely incorrect because he missed one very important word in our conversation. He missed the word “NOT.” I don’t know if he didn’t want to hear it, was talking over me when I said it or is being deceptive. What I said was “I feel like this information was NOT withheld intentionally.” Again, discussions about the EDA Healthcare Advisory Committee AND the “Financial and Operational Advisory Commission were held in open session. Mr. Weiss is wrong again. The EDA records are public records.

William S. Clark, Vice Chairman

Patrick County EDA

 

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