Valley View to seek lease, not election |

Valley View to seek lease, not election

Valley View Hospital will seek a long-term lease to occupy 19th Street east of Blake Avenue, rather than ask city voters to abandon the street.

A lease would allow Valley View to start sooner on its $25 million expansion and save the expense of a special election, said Valley View Hospital Association President Chris Treese. A lease would still require Glenwood Springs City Council approval.

Treese explained the plan in a lunchtime meeting with the Garfield County commissioners, who questioned the long-term wisdom of the short-term convenience.

The land underlying the street, and under the hospital itself, is owned by Garfield County. The city of Glenwood Springs holds an easement for 19th Street, but Valley View now wants to close the street and expand its structure to the north.

“When the use changes that drastically, will it still be a street?” asked county Commissioner Larry McCown. He questioned whether the city would still have a claim on the street if the land is occupied by a building, and said a voter-approved street vacation would be a cleaner solution.

Valley View has a separate lease with the county for land underlying the hospital. It won’t expire for another 80 years.

“I would much rather see you get this mess cleaned up, because in 80 years people aren’t going to know what we did here,” McCown advised Treese.

Treese said McCown raised a good question and promised to look into it.

The commissioners also aired a gripe about Valley View’s refusing to offer low-cost clinic space to the county’s Healthy Beginnings program, which serves expectant mothers who can’t afford health care.

“That kind of miffed me,” said Commissioner Walt Stowe, who felt the county government deserved some consideration as the hospital’s landlord.

“Then I see the current plans, with the assumption that the county will just belly up,” Stowe added, expressing further aggravation about the street.

He said he has “no problem” with the hospital’s expansion plans, but called for Valley View to “consider a fair exchange” since the expansion would encroach on more county-owned land.

In general, the commissioners were concerned that Valley View is taking more from the county than it is giving.

Treese and new Valley View board member Mark Gould disagreed, although they noted that much of the hospital’s community service is done quietly. “Valley View is the lowest-cost hospital in the immediate area,” Treese said, and it is one of four hospitals in the state that provide a high percentage of charity health care.

“When people walk in, they will get care,” Gould said. “We are taking every dollar and throwing it back into the community.”

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