Hospital board to shape message for bond election
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 9:26 AM
The Brownfield Regional Medical Center board of directors Monday began the process of shaping its message to local voters in the months leading up to a November bond election to build a new hospital.
Voter turnout will be the key to success, according to polling expert Mike Stevens, who advised the board on what the local hospital district can and can’t do during the campaign process.
Stevens, a consultant with Lubbock-based Action Printing, told the board that there are rules restricting anyone directly related to the hospital from actively promoting the bond election any time after it is called by the board.
He recommended instead that a political action committee (PAC) should be formed to raise funds and champion the proposed project.
“A PAC can do a lot of the things necessary to help a bond election be successful, which you as a board and as hospital staff are forbidden to do by state laws,” Stevens said. “The Ethics Commission can come down on you if you violate the rules.”
Stevens told the board that bond elections typically benefit from higher voter turnout and the ballot this November could bring out higher-than-average numbers in a non-presidential election.
“There is a lot of interest in this coming election because of the moves on the ballot with Robert Duncan’s resignation and Charles Perry’s seat opening up if he goes for the Senate,” Stevens said. “There will be several names on the ballot and some write-in campaigns so voter turnout could be good. It will be like having a primary in November and primary voters are generally more in-tune with issues than people who only vote in the general election.”
Stevens presented survey data his company compile several months ago that show a majority of Brownfield residents are in favor of the project.
Survey results provided to the board showed that more than 71 percent of respondents would support the construction of a hospital and medical office building.
Just under 17 percent of those surveyed said they were undecided on the matter and almost 12 percent said they opposed the idea of a new or renovated hospital.
Respondents also indicated an urgency in the need for a new or updated hospital.
When asked how many more years they thought the current hospital will be able to function without spending significant resources to maintain it, almost 57 percent said “two years or less.”
About 23 percent of those surveyed estimated that the current facility could operate as is for another three to five years, while an even 10 percent said six years to a decade more.
Just over eight percent of respondents said the condition of the building is not an issue.
The survey also indicated that Brownfield residents are largely satisfied with the services provided by the local medical facility.
Seventy percent of respondents said that the quality of medical services provided by BRMC meets the needs of the community while 85 percent felt the services provided by BRMC are a good value for customers, compared to other options.
When asked about the economics of the project, results showed a positive outlook and just as importantly, a willingness to pay for it.
A majority of those who took the survey – 55 percent – said they felt a new hospital would help grow the community and keep the fiscal benefits within the boundaries of Terry County.
Just over 28 percent said that would be true in some cases but not all, while almost 17 percent said a new facility would not contribute to growth in Brownfield.
When given pricing options and estimates of how it would affect the tax bill on the average home in the city, the largest percentage of respondents – 28.3 percent – indicated they would support the highest estimate presented.
That amount was projected for purposes of the survey at $30 million, with an annual increase of $124 to the tax bill on an average home in the city.
Newer cost projections are closer to $40 million for the entire project.
Almost 17 percent of respondents checked the box which stated “I am not comfortable with any new improvements to our hospital.”
Stevens said at the time of the survey that he was pleased with the response and assured the board it was a good sample of the registered voters in Terry County.
Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, 610 residents of the county completed the survey.
The 610 respondents included in the survey represented 32 percent of the normal voting public and include the same demographics as a normal voting group in Terry County.
Close attention was paid, according to Stevens, to the age, ethnicity and social attributes that make up voter profiles within the county.
Average age of the respondents was 55.4 years and 59 percent of the respondents were female.
The sample set included the normal and likely voters for Terry County in a non-Presidential election year.
The margin of error was calculated at 2.7 percent.
“I was pleased with the survey and the response,” Stevens said.
Stevens also told the board Monday night that time is of the essence and if they choose to form a PAC, they should do so immediately.
The PAC can encourage voters to support the bond package, while the hospital district can only educate the public on specific costs without influencing their vote in any way.