We’ve been watching. We’ve remained quiet. Now it’s time to speak out.
The City of Arkansas City has a big problem.
In what is becoming a dereliction of duty of epic proportions the City Commission has refused to have a collective backbone.
During the last City Commission meeting, Mayor Dan Jurkovich not only appointed former city commissioner Dotty Smith to the South Central Kansas Medical Center Board of Trustees, but the commission as a whole gave in to the board and created a joint steering committee.
Both of these decisions are problems.
Smith was one of the commissioners responsible for ramrodding through the building of the new hospital using public funds — against the advice of many, including former city manager Curt Freeland.
This steering committee is made up of mostly commissioners and board members (three commissioners, three trustees), and only includes one member of the public (Jonathan Hansen, who works as a pharmacist at Graves Drug in Arkansas City).
Hansen recently was recommended by the board of trustees for appointment to a vacancy on the hospital board.
So once again, the citizens of Arkansas City really are not being allowed to have a say in what is becoming one of the biggest financial drains on their wallets.
While Commissioners Jay Warren and Kanyon Gingher both expressed interest in the possibility of dissolving the Board of Trustees entirely, Gingher ultimately was the only commissioner willing to draw a hard line in the sand.
She did this by ordering the board not to enter into any new contracts at this time — which is great in theory, but the commission cannot actually stop the board from doing so.
At least one board member has proposed that South Central Kansas Medical Center work toward purchasing Ark City Clinic in the future.
Last fall, the board purchased Winfield Medical Arts (WMA) during a special meeting with no public discussion or comment.
During the first steering committee meeting, the members of the Board of Trustees admitted to knowing WMA would not be profitable for up to six months after its acquisition by SCKMC. This has proven to be true — it has lost $515,405 in its first six months since being acquired in October 2017.
So this begs the question of why a hospital with already flagging finances would not only choose to purchase a clinic that it knows will be unprofitable, but also now is considering purchasing a third clinic.
For the sake of all of our wallets, this pattern of decision-making cannot be allowed to continue.
There is only one thing left for the citizens to do — tell the commissioners you want change.
Tell them you will vote against any sales tax until that change is made.
While the solution to this crisis is not as simple as offloading SCKMC — the City is ultimately liable for paying off the bonds, whether or not the hospital is operating in that building — there has to be some kind of change.
Don’t give the same people another handout. Instead of cutting costs and tightening their belts, they have started program after program — none of which have continued to be profitable.
Citizen outcry on Facebook and other social media is obviously not going to be enough.
Citizens of Arkansas City who are concerned about the continued failing finances of SCKMC are obviously going to have to speak louder for the commission to be willing to hear them.
Contact your commissioners, go to the next City Commission meeting, go to the next Board of Trustees meeting. Let the Commission know you are not happy. They answer to We the People in Arkansas City.
In a town where good ol’ boy politics are still far too prevalent, the only way to effect change is to make sure your voice is heard.
The citizens have done it before — they got soccer reinstated at Cowley College and kept the City from offloading the Agri-Business Building.
Let’s see if we can do it again.
Demand change — it’s your money they are wasting.