April 8 the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors was at loggerheads over whether to give $800,000 or $500,000 to Marshall Medical as it seeks tobacco settlement funds to help with its $8 million renovation and equipment upgrade for its cancer treatment center in Cameron Park.
The county has $1.2 million of tobacco settlement funds stashed away, according to Auditor Joe Harn.
Each year, according to his conservative estimate, $150,000 more in tobacco settlement funds come in. Some years it’s $180,000, some years it’s $200,000.
Here is what El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laurel Brent-Bumb said about the subsidy: “Over 900 businesses” called “Marshall Medical a key to this community (with an) impact so incredibly important to our county.”
Supporting an important community asset like Marshall Hospital and its affiliated medical offices, such as the cancer center and its imaging center in Cameron Park, is important for the economic and medical well-being of this community. For us, that is No. 1.
The county is so flush with cash that it handed out 5 percent raises compounded three times, yet it can’t come up with $800,000 for Marshall Medical from tobacco money that is meant for medical purposes?
At the same meeting the board gave the sheriff the high sign to start snooping out the best price among three sites for a new Sheriff’s Office. With $54 million in cash carryover this year, the county property specialists should be able to work out a cost-effective option to purchase and payment terms.
Home prices may have recovered from the recession, but land is not moving. It is static and has been in a sales funk for some time. We expect some hard bargaining, based on realistic appraisals, not inflated land prices just because county government is the buyer.
The new sheriff’s site doesn’t have to be cash on the barrel head. It should be paid off over several years. It will take that long to come up with plans and do environmental documentation. Some of these sites will require off-site improvements.
The point is the sheriff’s new headquarters is a long way off and the only component that should be realistically funded by tobacco funds is a morgue. We don’t see tobacco funds paying for his new indoor shooting range.
With the sheriff’s morgue being a long way from construction, the only other county hold on tobacco funds would be the psychiatric health facility (popularly known as the PHF Unit), which services those brought in, often by law enforcement, for a 72-hour stabilization hold.
What the county has now is working and no replacement plans have been publicly presented.
So here are two projects that were mentioned as justifying using a low-ball figure for the Marshall cancer center. The sheriff’s property purchase is not something that has to be completely paid in one year and it will be several years before any buildings begin construction. Only a small part of this 97,000-square-foot law enforcement center will actually qualify for medical funding from the tobacco settlement. And don’t forget the Indian casino pays $500,000 annually to the Sheriff’s Department. Meanwhile nothing has come up about replacement need for the PHF Unit.
Does the Board of Supervisors have something against treating cancer? What’s wrong with using funds from the tobacco settlement to pay for a cancer center? The $800,000 will help put Marshall over the top on its $8 million cancer center fund drive. This cancer center will not just serve El Dorado County, but will draw patients from all over the region.
It’s time for Supervisor Brian Veerkamp to be a full-time supervisor. Get off the Foundation board and vote. End the indoor pot-shots at the Board of Supervisors. Give Marshall the full $800,000. Quit quibbling over $300,000 when the board spends more than that on consultants. For that extra $300,000 we can treat somebody’s cancer. That’s priceless.