Miller says mill levy funds not needed to build hospital

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Miller Architects is moving forward with building a hospital in Los Lunas regardless of whether it is awarded the mill levy funds by the Valencia County Commission.

The announcement was made at last Thursday's council meeting by Los Lunas Village Administrator Gregory Martin.

In a May 2 letter to village officials, the company's CEO Darin Miller stated that in partnership with the medical provider, Lovelace Health Systems, they would map out a service plan that initially doesn't need mill levy support.

In short, he wrote, he is going ahead and buying land to begin building the Valencia Regional Medical Center early next summer. The hospital is scheduled to open in the winter of 2015.

"Miller is going to plunge ahead to make the hospital a reality … (he) will no longer wait to get started," Martin said.

A few days after that announcement, the village attorney filed a motion to dismiss the city of Belen's request for an injunction to stop the village from publicizing a resolution comparing the Los Lunas and Belen hospital projects.

Village attorney Larry Guggino filed a motion Monday to dismiss the declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunction brought against the village by Belen.

The Belen injunction, filed April 17, states the village resolution gave "false and misleading information" regarding the proposed Ameris-managed Belen hospital.

The village's motion to dismiss states the resolution neither has force of law nor does it prohibit Belen from constructing a hospital, and that Belen's complaint fails to state a claim the court might remedy.

"It's just a difference of opinion," said Guggino. "Lawsuits are filed to resolve legal disputes, not differences of opinion."

The motion states that since the village's resolution has no force of law and doesn't impact anyone's rights, Belen's injunction is simply its disagreement with the statements in the resolution that assert the village is the better location for a county hospital. As such, it appears Belen's injunction is an attempt to curtail free speech, according to the motion.

"If you take all the facts that the city has stated in its lawsuit as true," Guggino said, "the declaratory judgment act doesn't apply, because the entry of an order will not terminate the controversy regarding where is the best location to build a hospital with long-term sustainability."

Miller said he has been disheartened by some of the county political bodies, and disappointed the commission entered into a joint powers agreement with the city of Belen even after Los Lunas asked the commission to withhold that decision until Miller gave his final Los Lunas VRMC feasibility presentation.

In the original JPA, county commissioners allocated voter-approved mill levy funds to a proposed hospital project in Belen.

Initially, Miller's proposed hospital did not factor in the use of mill levy funding. He made a request for the mill levy after his feasibility study showed the county had greater needs than he originally estimated.

Miller would like the mill levy support to subsidize operations for additional services after the hospital is built.

Los Lunas Village Councilor Charles Griego said the hospital has become a provincial issue, and not a business decision on the commission's part, that holds up regional services for county residents.

Griego said it's up to the citizens to change the commission's perspective.

"I think the big news here, is that Miller has made a commitment at this point, to go forward with the hospital in spite of the distribution of the mill levy," said Councilor Richard Lovato.

Los Lunas village officials gave a hospital update to county commissioners Wednesday after News-Bulletin press time. The commissioners also were scheduled to discuss an amended hospital JPA with the city of Belen.

District Judge Violet Otero has not yet scheduled a hearing regarding the city's request for an injunction.


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