The fate of the South Routt Medical Center is in the hands of the voters.
South Routt County will vote May 2 on a mill levy that would raise property taxes to support the medical center.
What: South Routt Medical Center informational open house
When: 5 to 7 p.m. April 28
Where: South Routt Medical Center, 300 Main St., Oak Creek
Call: Linda Long at 736-8378 or Sandy Stefano at 638-0471
The tax would equal about 2.1 mills, or $24 per $150,000 of assessed property value for residential taxpayers. The tax would raise about $180,000 annually. The center's service plan says the money raised by the mill levy would be spent on staff, salaries for physicians, medical supplies, capital improvements, medications and education projects.
The South Routt Medical Center likely will close if the mill levy fails, officials said. Increasing operating costs and lower insurance and government reimbursement rates have hurt the clinic's finances.
In 2005, Dr. Bill Geserick --the only practicing medical doctor at the clinic-- said he sees between nine and 10 patients a day, or about 30 a week.
The Oak Creek-based South Routt Medical Center services the South Routt communities of Phippsburg, Oak Creek, Stagecoach, Toponas, Yampa and McCoy, which is in Grand County.
"We're getting a big draw from the entire area," Geserick said.
Geserick said he is a family practitioner capable of treating patients of all ages. The center does not have working X-ray machines or a dentist, both of which the center hopes to obtain with the passage of the mill levy.
Geserick said if the mill levy does not pass, the center's future is bleak.
"If the levy does not pass, personally, I won't work here anymore," he said. "It would be hard to fathom who they could get to come out here and work for less than $50 an hour."
Geserick is hopeful the community recognizes the value of the medical center and will help it to continue functioning and providing services.
"I think I've given it a good shot. I know what this clinic can do," he said.
Geserick said one of the common arguments he hears against the mill levy comes from those who don't live in the area and don't want to support a facility they don't use.
"That argument, to me, doesn't make sense. We all pay taxes for roads in this community we don't drive on," he said. "This issue is no different than those issues. Overall, it is a benefit to have medical services available in your community."
David Bonfiglio, who owns Bonfiglio Drug in Oak Creek, is on the South Routt Medical Center board and said that while he understands people are opposed to any tax increase, losing the center could be a bigger loss than not just having a doctor around three days a week.
"When people look at moving to an area, they look at two things: schools and medical care. When you move to a new community, you want it to be self-sufficient and self-contained," Bonfiglio said.
With the loss of the center, Bonfiglio said new families and potential business owners might take their business and families elsewhere.
"Hayden has good schools, Hayden has a good clinic," he said. "A clinic could be the deciding factor."
There are those who oppose the mill levy.
Phippsburg resident Dean Rossi said he isn't opposed to the tax or supporting the center; rather, he is opposed to the lack of a sunset clause. He also does not think the plan outlines clearly how the money will be spent.
"What happens if there is no doctor or physician's assistant there? The tax should be suspended. I don't think there is a mechanism to do away with (the mill levy)," he said.
"Every special district should have a sunset. I don't care what it is. People should have the right to say 'We like what you're doing,' or 'We want to do away with you.' I'm against it being a forever tax."
Steamboat resident David Baker owns Oak Creek Holdings, the property on which Oak Creek's mini-mall sits.
Baker petitioned in March to be exempt from the tax during a meeting with the Routt County Board of Commissioners. Along with Baker, 106 other property owners wanted exemption.
Linda Long, a South Routt Medical Center board member, said 77 of the petitions came from out-of-state property owners. The county commissioners decided in March that no one would be exempt from the tax; however, commissioners gave the petitioners the option to take the matter to court.
Long said the South Routt Medical Center couldn't afford to battle Baker's petition, and he will be exempt from the tax.
Baker said the only reason he opposed the tax was because he was not going to be able to vote on the matter. "It's called taxation without representation. We'd be subject to paying the tax, but we couldn't vote on it," he said.
The ballot has been divided into five separate questions. In order to pass, voters must approve each of the issues.