The Carmi City Council met Monday, May 19, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Room of the Municipal Building, 225 East Main Street, Carmi, Illinois.
Prior to opening the council meeting, Mayor Pollard asked Alderman Steve Winkleman to give the invocation. The prayer was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor Pollard presided with the following Aldermen present: Steve Winkleman, Mark W. Blake, Keith Davis, Kenny Carter, Sheila Jo Headlee, Doug Hays, Jack Lamont and Mike Knight.
Minutes for the May 5, 2014 council meeting were presented. Motion made by Alderman Hays and seconded by Alderman Blake to approve the minutes as presented. The motion carried on roll call by each Alderman answering “yes.”
Mayor Pollard announced that Mr. Keith Botsch, City CPA was to give the financial reports for the City of Carmi and Light and Water Departments, unfortunately he could not be present due to an emergency and would give the report at the June 2nd council meeting.
April 2014 financial reports for the City of Carmi and Carmi Light & Water Departments were presented for approval. Motion made by Alderman Headlee and seconded by Alderman Winkleman to approve the financial reports as presented. The motion carried on roll call by each Alderman answering “yes.”
Vendor invoices for the City of Carmi and Carmi Light & Water Departments payable in May 2014 were presented for approval. Motion by Alderman Winkleman and seconded by Alderman Davis to approve and authorize payment of the May 2014 vendor invoices. The motion carried on roll call by each Alderman answering “yes.”
Mayor Pollard asked Council to approve Resolution No. 05-19-14, a resolution of support and commitment of funds to match grant funds for the Community Development Block Grant Project (CDBG) pertaining to the “Blue Goose” pump station. Alderman Winkleman commented that it had to be done and was a necessity to replace the pump station. Mayor Pollard agreed and added whether it would be an emergency or pre-planned it was a necessity. Motion by Alderman Knight and seconded by Alderman Blake to approve Resolution No. 05-19-14 as presented. The motion carried on roll call by each Alderman answering “yes.”
Mayor Pollard presented City Attorney Greg Stewart to update the council concerning the Phoenix Foundation and the Phoenix Foundation utility bills. Mr. Stewart noted that a new lawsuit has been filed in the White County Courthouse against Phoenix by Select Rehabilitation who provided rehab services for Phoenix at the nursing home. Select Rehabilitation’s contract for payment was not fulfilled by Phoenix which led to the lawsuit which is one hundred eighty nine thousand (189,000) dollars plus interest and was filed on May 14th by a law firm out of Chicago. Mr. Stewart also noted that within the last two weeks he has not heard anything from Phoenix regarding the general ledger or any of the other information that he requested. He did, however, receive a telephone call from Glenn Poshard who was influential in getting state grants for Phoenix years ago for purposes of trying to re-open the hospital. Mr. Poshard became aware of the situation through his brother Ed Poshard and told Mr. Stewart that he was willing to work with the city in any way that he could to help resolve this situation. Mr. Poshard will be here in Carmi on May 29th to speak to the Kiwanis Club and while he is here would like to setup a meeting with the principal players at Mr. Stewart’s office to see if there is anything he can assist with. Mr. Stewart commented that he wasn’t sure if Mr. Poshard could do anything because the matter was getting very legal and is moving along at a pretty good pace. He then added that the council has to determine what to do with Phoenix regarding the revolving loan and the fact that it is about four years in default and they are behind about eighty four thousand (84,000) dollars in utility payments. To Mr. Stewart’s knowledge there has been no change on the liens or judgments. Alderman Headlee called and spoke to Lil Fortner last week and she still had not produced the letter that she requested at the May 5th meeting. Mrs. Fortner commented that she has the letter tonight. Alderman Davis inquired about the legal aspects of shutting the power off. Mr. Stewart replied that he had never investigated that but he would request to allow patients to move to another facility, whether it took thirty, sixty, or ninety days to complete the move. Mr. Stewart noted that he went through the same thing when the Carmi Township Hospital closed and the last thing he wants to happen is for somebody to be injured, hurt, or die because of something that comes down to dollars and cents. He added that it’s just not worth it and to take that approach no matter what the law says. Alderman Winkleman commented that the city had turned off the power in the past and that caused some damage to the basement. Mayor Pollard commented that the whole situation is disheartening and that the community needs a hospital and that part of his frustration is the lack of communication from Phoenix and their board members.
Mayor Pollard turned the floor over to Lil Fortner, administrator of Phoenix. Mrs. Fortner noted that she had talked to Mr. Poshard who asked her to pass along some information. “He is willing to help us in this situation so that he can help the city. He will do everything he can to accelerate the payments from Medicaid, so we can pay the city. Beyond that, he is willing to work with Phoenix and the city to further the efforts to bring healthcare and emergency medical services to our community and our county. He is willing to put his time and efforts towards that goal. He asks that you understand that we appreciate you allowing him to work in this capacity so we can resolve these issues. He has an extensive background in both estate and healthcare industries. He chaired the health facility’s planning board. And he is more than capable of finding a solution so that all parties will succeed on behalf of this community and county. Dr. Poshard and I need time to share information within the requirements of HIPPA and that’s one of the things that have held us back on just laying out our general ledger. Because when we began to review the records all through our general ledger we have named names and we are not to do that and disclose it outside of our building. Nor are we to disclose it without the confines of confidentially.” Mrs. Fortner added that she did have auditors in this week to review their records and apologized for not getting together with Mr. Stewart. She then added that they are progressing and have every intent to provide the city with the information they have requested. Alderman Headless commented that out of the one point four (1.4) million dollars that is owed to the city, Phoenix owes one point three (1.3) million dollars that is coming in and going straight back out to get their bills caught up. She then asked where their operating capital would come from. Mrs. Fortner replied that they are a very small facility and they can operate on a small budget. Alderman Headlee then added that they haven’t been for the last couple of years and asked what was going to change. Mrs. Fortner claimed that before this past year before things started to go south, that they had held their own and that this last year has been very difficult for them. Alderman Headlee then asked what the problem was. Mrs. Fortner replied that she couldn’t answer that because she isn’t entirely sure herself, they are looking into it. Mrs. Fortner then added that this community needs and deserves a hospital in which Alderman Headlee agreed with her. Alderman Headlee then commented that the people who are owed money also deserve to be paid. Mayor Pollard said that he didn’t feel like it was a city problem because the city isn’t trying to be the villains and shut the facility down or put people out of work. He added that the city was behind Phoenix one hundred percent and the lack of communication is the biggest thing that upsets him the most and he also believes that history is repeating itself.
Mr. Stewart read the letter from the state of Illinois to everyone in attendance. Mrs. Fortner then explained the process of Medicaid and credit adjustments along with bed taxes. Alderman Davis asked Mrs. Fortner who is on the Phoenix board. She answered that the board members were David Campbell, Fred Smith, Keith Hoskins, and Cindy Conoly. Alderman Davis then commented that since Phoenix is a five star facility they obviously have good workers who care about their jobs and that the board looks like a good group of people, making the common denominator Mrs. Fortner. He then asked Mrs. Fortner if she would be willing to resign from the company if the city would be willing to help keep Phoenix open. She replied that if she was able to do that and get this work done that she would have already done that. She added that she has been asked to stay to get these issues resolved. She then commented that she was not supposed to be here in this community this length of time. She is only here for one reason; to get a hospital based emergency room back in Carmi. She agreed that someone else needs to run the facility, but they need the funds first. Phoenix employees between fifty two (52) to sixty (60) employees and has given back eighteen million (18) dollars back into the community. Alderman Headlee questioned why the state of Illinois is so far behind on their payments and if the paperwork was not done properly. Mrs. Fortner admitted that at one point in time, the state was holding payments because the paper work was wrong and that she was the one who filled it out. Alderman Davis commented that he had talked to other healthcare providers in the state of Illinois who have been receiving their Medicaid payments and that it was hard for him to believe that the state was picking on Phoenix and not paying them. Mrs. Fortner replied that Phoenix is one of the lowest Medicaid providers in the area and as of May 19th, there are twenty three (23) residents at Phoenix. Dr. Saquib replied that the facility will lose more and more patients if meetings keep happening. He then added that Mrs. Fortner has put her own money into the facility along with her time and that she is taking on too many things and not getting paid for it. Mrs. Fortner added that it is hard to gather confidence with people in their facility when problems are in the news. Alderman Hays commented that Mrs. Fortner is in control of the money and that she is responsible for Phoenix and that it is a shame that it had to come to this. Mayor Pollard asked her how many times he asked to speak with her and that nobody would talk to him. Alderman Headlee commented that the council did not bring up these issues with Phoenix to embarrass them, as Aldermen they have an obligation to the residents of the City of Carmi to protect their tax dollars and that everything that is being discussed is public record. Alderman Headlee then asked Dr. Saquib if the board was aware of the lawsuit being filed against Phoenix. Dr. Saquib replied that he is not on the Phoenix board that deals with finances; he is on the Phoenix Foundation board. Alderman Headlee then inquired about other money owed by Phoenix. Mrs. Fortner claimed that plenty of funds would be left after paying all the bills. Mrs. Fortner then asked if the city would give time to let Mr. Poshard help Phoenix. Alderman Hays said that Phoenix was not willing to work with the city, in which Mrs. Fortner replied that is his perception and it is not an accurate perception. Dr. Saquib mentioned that the project is too important to let it go and that Mrs. Fortner was told to work with the city and to report finances to the Phoenix board. He also added that the board will work with creditors. Mayor Pollard stated that as a business owner, you can go back and prove finances. He then asked Mrs. Fortner how far back she could go. He added that she will never produce any requests. Mr. Stewart added that two things were taking place; creditor’s line up for payment and vendors will stop doing business with Phoenix. He also added that employees will also start leaving because they get scared and have families to take care of. Mr. Stewart then said that the emergency room is a money loser. Mrs. Fortner claimed that they dropped to a ten (10) bed hospital from their original plans and explained that it would be successful in this community and that by law; they can have as little as two (2) beds. Alderman Davis questioned how the hospital is going to be funded. Mrs. Fortner answered that the Illinois Comptroller’s office would give the facility assistance. Dr. Saquib claimed that the hospital was eighty percent done and it would require up to an additional three months to fully complete. He then added that community support is a big factor in the success of the hospital. Alderman Lamont stated that the community is scared to finically support the hospital. Mayor Pollard added that money from fundraiser’s need to be separated from general funds. Alderman Davis questioned how much money Phoenix has in the bank. Mrs. Fortner was not sure. Mr. Bob Philips asked how far behind is the state of Illinois to all the other nursing homes in Illinois. Mayor Pollard and Alderman Headlee agreed that the state of Illinois was behind approximately four months to all facilities. Jane Davis said the facility is not in question; the facilities administration was in question. Cheryl Burnett then stated that bed taxes come out first and that she knows how much it is because she had worked in social services at Phoenix and would assist in completing the required paperwork for bed taxes. Alderman Headlee commented that it is common courtesy to the employees and to the public to let them know about these issues. Mr. Stewart said that the person responsible for bringing these issues into public view was him and not the Mayor or council. Alderman Carter stated that the council needs the true figures. Mrs. Fortner said that auditors have been brought in and when completed they will supply the financial information to city.
Reports and/or updates from Mayor Pollard
Mayor Pollard thanked Wal-Mart for the grant money the city received and said the funds would more than likely be used to purchase an additional handicap accessible swing.
Mayor Pollard thanked City Supervisor Mike Buckman and his wife Dianne Buckman for their assistance in trimming and cleaning up Veterans Memorial Park.
Reports from Standing Committees
Alderman Knight noted that opening day ceremonies at Bradshaw Park were a success. Mr. Knight had a suggestion from a citizen that the city add more hand washing stations at the park. He then noted that picnic tables get moved around at Burrell’s Woods quite often and suggested that the council come up with a solution. Alderman Knight also said that the Maple Ridge cemetery had finally been mowed and looked good. Mayor Pollard added that the public pool is being pressure washed and prepared for opening.
Alderman Hays notified the council that one of the police officers hired full time late last year has resigned his position and the council needed to approve the Police Commission to hire a replacement officer in the near future.
Alderman Lamont noted that Street and Alley Department would begin spraying for mosquito’s next week.
Alderman Davis notified the council that Electrical Engineer David Coston would be at the June 2nd council meeting to discuss some upgrades that were needed in the electrical infrastructure. Alderman Davis also noted that he had spoken with the Dillman family and they had suggested renting a track hoe and having a city employee to expand “Gregory W. Dillman Memorial Pond” at Burrell Woods with the funds that the family had donated. Alderman Davis estimated the costs to be between eight (8) to nine (9) thousand dollars to rent the track hoe, fuel and additional costs would be the city employees pay.
Alderman Carter noted that the first meeting of the Carmi Municipal Airport Board was last week and it was very successful.
Business or Comments from Visitors
Citizen Greg Hays addresses everyone in attendance: Council, Phoenix, staff, and taxpayers. He explained five (5) phases in nursing and the nursing process. The nursing process applies in this situation. He agreed that the public needs to know the truth. He then recommended that a city representative be on the board at Phoenix. Mr. Hays was laid off on March 6th because of a lack of funds from the Phoenix Foundation.
Citizen Darrin Hays spoke as well. He claimed that Mrs. Fortner was blowing smoke and that he didn’t believe that our community would ever have a hospital again.
Citizen Penny Wyatt, who is employed at Phoenix, noted that all the employees feel they were blamed for rumors about the Phoenix Foundation. She claimed that she sat in Mrs. Fortner’s office one night and said that if this place went down that it was because of rumors by employees.
Mayor Pollard stated that employees and administration problems are not city problems. He said that all things requested from Stewart should have been provided.
Dr. Saquib noted that when the hospital and nursing home closed, everything that Phoenix has and has become was started from nothing. He then added that the council needs to look at the positives and not just the negatives. He then said that the hospital needs to be finished and completed.
Mayor Pollard then stated that the Phoenix board must make the decision on what needs to be done and that it is not the City of Carmi’s decision.
Mrs. Fortner assured that the board of Phoenix will decide who is paid first once the money comes in from the State of Illinois.
Motion made by Alderman Davis and seconded by Alderman Carter to adjourn. The motion carried on roll call by each alderman answering “yes.”
At 7:21 p.m., the council adjourned.
Brian K. Allen, City Clerk
Jeff Pollard, Mayor