LL accepts hospital resolution


The Los Lunas Village Council passed a resolution and position statement comparing the two competing hospital proposals in Valencia County.

The resolution was developed by Gregory Martin, the village administrator, and Ralph Mims, the economic development manager, in support of the Valencia Regional Medical Center, which is being developed by Darin Miller and Associates to be built west of Interstate 25 on N.M. 6 in Los Lunas.

The resolution presents a side-by-side comparison between the VRMC and Ameris-proposed Belen hospital on Christopher Road.

"This is really a good piece of information," said Los Lunas Mayor Robert Vialpando. "It shows both sides and I really think we definitely have the edge. I think we should definitely be considered for the site."

The purpose of the resolution is to inform citizens about the proposed hospital projects, and continue to solicit support for the construction of a hospital in Los Lunas, believing that location to be the most sustainable and successful, Martin said.

"On top of that, of course, we have on retainer a marketing specialist that will help us get the word out in the various traditional advertising campaign methods, such as print advertising," Martin said.

The position statement will be presented to the village of Bosque Farms and the town of Peralta councils for signature support in addition to their previously signed letters of support.

The resolution will also be presented at local organization community meetings to garner signature support.

"We want to get this out to the public, so the public is aware that there are two competing entities and ours is the best entity to construct the hospital," said Mims. "A lot of people aren't educated on both projects … the nitty gritty and nuts and bolts of the projects, so this is basically an education piece and call to action, so we can move forward."

Some of the information for the comparisons was taken from the 2010 U.S. Census, and some from Miller's feasibility study, Mims said.

The resolution might eventually be presented to the Valencia County Commission to show the community support.

Valencia County Commissioner Alicia Aguilar attended last week's council meeting, and said she was glad to be there.

"I'm very happy to see this resolution," Aguilar said. "When I speak, I speak on my own and not for the commission, but I would love for this to come before the commission, because I think it's informative.

" It would also be good for the commission or for the county to place it on their website. I appreciate the information and the comparison. For me as a county commissioner, it's very informative."

Some of the comparisons made between the two hospital projects include the greater population density and economic growth of Los Lunas compared to Belen, and the assertion that northern county residents are more likely to go north to Albuquerque for medical emergencies than south to Belen.

It also states the VRMC project site was based on a county-wide site study with a long-term success evaluation, but says the Belen hospital project is based on a commitment by the city of Belen to donate a piece of property, and not on a county-wide site assessment with a long-term success assessment.

Other comparisons contend the Belen hospital site on Christopher Road is prone to flooding, whereas the Los Lunas site is free of any environmental issues, and has infrastructure already in place.

The resolution claims the Belen hospital depends on public financing through the issuance of revenue bonds, while the Los Lunas hospital project is a privately-funded enterprise not depend on issuing bonds for construction.

Miller Architects will own the VRMC, while Ameris and the Belen hospital project's Chicago bond brokers, Stern Brothers & Co., are paid development and financing fees up front before the Belen hospital opens its doors, and has responsibility if the hospital loses money or fails.

That burden would fall to the bond holders and the city of Belen/Valencia County as the owners of the operation and facilities, the resolution states.

Lovelace Health Systems, a known New Mexico entity, has signed on as the provider for the VRMC, and has a management team already in place, but the Belen hospital operator, Ameris, has no New Mexico connections and would need to hire a management team.

The document continues by comparing VRMC's five-year financial plan that indicates profitability in two years, and the five-year financial plan of the Belen hospital that the resolution says will lose money for the first five years, and that without mill levy support, it is not a viable operation.

The VRMC's plan does not rely on the assumption the mill levy will be renewed.

The resolution also claims Miller Architects has been involved in the construction and design of about 50 facilities, and Ameris has been involved in developing and operating 12 facilities, nine of which Ameris sold or returned to the community.

The entire resolution can be seen on the Los Lunas website, www.loslunasnm.gov.

"The village of Los Lunas will use that (resolution) as a position statement regarding the two hospitals," Martin said. "Obviously, the village believes that a hospital in Valencia County is of vital importance to the health and well-being of the inhabitants … that the long-term sustainability and staffing needs of the hospital are of primary concern in selecting the final location of a hospital.

"The operator of the hospital and the construction of a hospital in Los Lunas would be more sustainable than construction of a hospital in Belen."

Councilor Richard Lovato said the village needs to continue soliciting support from citizens and the county.

"I don't know what the county's time line is in making their decision, but I think we need to keep our eyes and ears open as to what goes on in the county commission, and continue with this effort to solicit the support we need to make this happen in Los Lunas." Lovato said.

In other business, the council:

• Appointed Councilor Charles Griego as this year's mayor pro tem.

• Approved one year contracts for parks and recreation volleyball league officials Kristin Jaramillo, Yvette Gonzalez and Amanda Jaramillo at $14 per day.

• Approved one-year contracts for parks and recreation division facility attendants Aaron Sanchez and Debra Sanchez at $14 per hour.

• Hired Danielle Miller as a seasonal parks and recreation employee.

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.