HERMANN — The effort continues by Hermann Area District Hospital (HADH) officials to craft a lease agreement with an out-of-state organization to manage the healthcare facility. And while the …
HERMANN — The effort continues by Hermann Area District Hospital (HADH) officials to craft a lease agreement with an out-of-state organization to manage the healthcare facility. And while the talks continue, so, too, does the large cost for filling hospital staff vacancies with temporary workers.
“We’re still heavy into temp staffing,” said HADH Administrator Dan McKinney during last week’s monthly session of the Hermann Regional Economic Development (HRED) Corporation. “The prices (of temporary staffing) are coming down, but we’re still paying $150 an hour,” he said.
McKinney said discussions continue with AVEM in ironing out the particulars of a lease that would have the organization assume the day-to-day operations of the hospital. The effort with AVEM has been under way for some time, longer than McKinney and others at the hospital had thought it would take. The HADH administrator no longer offers a prediction on when an agreement might be signed.
One reason for the longer-than-expected time needed to work out an agreement, McKinney said, could be that AVEM is not accustomed to coming into a community with an already-viable hospital. Thanks largely to funding tied to the pandemic and the recovery effort, HADH, in the short term, is in good financial shape, McKinney told the HRED board.
“I’ve got concerns about where are in two or three years, but I don’t have concerns for now,” he said.
“I’ve stopped guessing timelines,” McKinney said. “Every time I’ve guessed, I’ve been wrong,” he added.
There is less guesswork needed in when the hospital’s new clinic — developed as part of the former ALCO building that now houses the Hermann branch of Scenic Regional Library District — will be open for business. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is tentatively scheduled for late August. However, as with most other such projects taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, a firm opening date is hard to nail down.
McKinney said the hospital district is having difficulty obtaining some supplies. A grand opening ceremony will be scheduled after the new clinic has opened and the staff has had a chance to settle in.
Meanwhile, Gasconade County R-1 School District Superintendent Geoff Neill also told fellow HRED directors that, like the hospital, the school district has benefitted greatly from funds tied to the pandemic. Indeed, the R-1 Board of Directors later in the work would be able to transfer $750,000 into its capital projects fund.
“State money and federal money are rolling in at unprecedented levels,” Neill said at the HRED session. “I wish the supply chains were open,” he added, referring to major projects such as new more-secure entryways at all three schools — elementary, middle and high — have been set aside for a while until needed materials are available.
The administrator noted that district personnel already are gearing up for the start of another school year.
“Believe it or not, were not that far away from the first day of school,” Neill said. The 2022-23 school year begins on Monday, Aug. 22.
Hermann-Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melissa Lensing provided updates on various events in the county seat community this month and upcoming activities, such as the Aug. 23 Job Fair set from noon to 6 p.m. at the Hermannhoff Festhalle and the July 23 ribbon-cutting and Grand Opening ceremonies at the new Hermann branch library in Bavarian Hills Plaza off Highway 19 South.
Lensing also noted that support is needed from all corners of the community for the First Friday Art Walk in downtown Hermann.
“We have got to continue to support the Art Walk,” she said, noting that businesses along Schiller Street were pleased that the city closed off the street to allow more participants to display their craft and wares in the street rather than on the sidewalk.
But, said Hermann City Administrator Patricia Heaney, representing city government on the HRED board, all the business were not in agreement that the street closing was a good idea.
“Not all of the businesses on that street were happy,” she said. “There were some hiccups. There will be further discussions” within City Hall about street closings in the future, she said.
Apparently, the closing affects some businesses are scheduled to receive deliveries of product on Fridays.
“There are some kinks to work out, but it’s a great event,” Heaney said of the Art Walk that features artists of all styles producing and displaying their creations in front of businesses throughout the downtown. The Art Walk attracts a large number of tourists and residents to view the work of artists, some who are local and some from several states away.
Heaney also noted that the hotel feasibility study has begun by Destination Services LLC, a St. Charles County company. The Hermann BOA last month approved a contract with the company to conduct a study showing whether a new hotel can be a viable venture in the community. The study is the basis of the effort of Cobblestone Hotels of Wisconsin to find investors to build and operate a Cobblestone Hotel in the county seat.
That study can be expanded later to survey the landscape for other topics such as economic development in general and other areas of the community. HRED directors and the Hermann-Area Chamber of Commerce members earlier had voiced support for a broader feasibility study that looked at several other aspects of the community, mostly aimed at economic development and housing issues.
But while an effort was being made to form a coalition of organizations that could fund a study, Mayor Bruce Cox wanted the city of Hermann to move forward and contract with a company study limited to the hotel issue. The Board of Aldermen did that in rather quick fashion, approving a contract with Destination Services. The company quick set about doing the legwork within the community, city officials said.
“They were shocked at how much we have in this town,” Heaney told the HRED board, adding that a potential investor has expressed interest in being part of a new hotel in Hermann.
HRED Director Ron Kraettli suggested that an effort be made be prepared to accommodate an increase in electric vehicles, especially regarding the availability of charging stations. He said perhaps City Hall could research the availability of grant programs aimed at helping promote use of electric vehicles.
“It’s coming and it’s coming quicker than we think,” Kraettli said.
Heaney said City Hall would be on the lookout for possible sources of revenue to develop charging stations.
The next meeting of the HRED board is set for Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 12:30 in the R-1 Administration Building.
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