Greene Publishing, Inc.
Wednesday night, June 29, the Madison County Commission convened its 6 p.m. meeting in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Every seat was taken and nearly a dozen people, including Sheriff Ben Stewart, who led the opening prayer, stood off to the side and leaned against the wall.
The Commission was meeting for two reasons: The first was to pass an emergency measure to begin the process of replacing an old bridge on Highway 150 (Lovett Road) across the Aucilla River.
The second was to decide whether or not to release $250,000 a year of the half-cent sales tax to go to the Madison County Memorial Hospital; the hospital had requested the money to help pay for the three million a year it provides in indigent care, for which it was not reimbursed by any state or federal agency.
After several minutes of discussion as to how the county would go about repairing or replacing the bridge, how long it would take, and what was involved, the measure passed 5-0.
Discussion then turned to the hospital and the meeting became a little more intense.
The audience contained several hospital employees as well as several hospital supporters; at one point Commission Chair Renetta Parrish asked how many in the audience were employees of the hospital and about six people raised their hands. Another in the audience asked, “What does that matter anyway?”
Court Clerk Tim Sanders then explained two options for refinancing another loan that the county had almost paid off, which would free up the money requested by the hospital.
Several members of the public took the podium to speak out on the issue, both for and against providing the money. Those against the measure primarily .noted what was referred to as a lack of accountability or transparency of the two-board hospital system, and questioned where the tax money was going and how it was being spent. Those for the measure spoke of Madison hospital being the only hospital in the state that was required to provide indigent care, yet receive no help with the expense other than $35,000 already mandated by the state.
After several people had spoken, the board discussed whether to vote on the matter that night or extended the discussion to two more board meetings that had been advertised. Board member Roy Ellis was ready to take action, however, and made a motion that the board pass the second of two options explained earlier and the money be released to the Hospital. Wayne Vickers seconded the motion. The motion passed with Ellis, Vickers and Hamrick voting yes; Parrish and Board member Alfred Martin voted against it.