The Keokuk City Council has signed off on a plan that could possibly lead to additional federal funding for Keokuk Area Hospital.
It starts with the panel’s vote of 7-2 last night to contribute $100,000.
KAH CEO Wally Winkler says the city’s contribution will be paired with a $100,000 contribution from Lee County. He says that money could result in roughly $510-thousand dollars for the hospital.
Winkler says additional state funding is also a possibility.
Members of the Keokuk City Council expressed plenty of concerns about the contribution, saying on several occasions that this must be a one-time deal for the city.
Winkler says KAH is doing everything it can to trim costs and identify budget savings. He says the plan is to save the hospital, not to come back and seek more city money
2nd Ward Alderman Mike Moore summed up the thoughts of those in support of the contribution. He says the city must take this step because there are too many jobs at stake (@ 270) for Keokuk to do nothing.
Aldermen At-Large Zane Zirkel and John Helenthal both voted against the contribution. They cited public opinion and personal experiences before casting their votes.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The debate over funding the hospital got especially heated after Zirkel made an ethical accusation against Mayor Tom Marion.
Marion serves on the Board of Directors for Keokuk Area Hospital. He was trying to answer questions posed by the council, early on in the meeting, because KAH CEO Wally Winkler had not arrived.
That’s when Alderman At-Large Zane Zirkel called out the mayor for serving on that board.
"I'll be blunt," says Zirkel, "I have a real problem because I don't think, Mr. Mayor, that you should have gone on to the Board of Directors for that hospital. To me, it is a conflict of interest."
Zirkel went on to say the mayor knew the hospital was in trouble and was seeking $100,000 from the city.
"You should have distanced yourself from that," says Zirkel, "and said, 'as mayor, I should not be involved with that business.' It is a conflict."
"Well, I think it is not," says Marion. He says it is his responsibility to be as informed as he can about a wide variety of topics.
"I take umbrige with the fact that you say I should not be on that hospital board," says Marion, "I am here to support the community."
KAH CEO Wally Winkler walked in just a couple of seconds after that comment, so the topic of Marion’s service on the board was dropped for the night.
A mayor is not allowed to vote on any issue before the Keokuk City Council.
You can hear much more from Thursday night’s city council meeting by clicking the Listen link above.