A somber Mayor Dan Rife encapsulated what some on the Carthage City Council were thinking when he commented at the end of the meeting, “I think we did a disservice to our city tonight.”

A somber Mayor Dan Rife encapsulated what some on the Carthage City Council were thinking when he commented at the end of the meeting, “I think we did a disservice to our city tonight.”
These were Rife's only comments on the Council's rejection, by one vote of a $37,500 grant, recommended by the McCune Brooks Hospital Trust to the McCune Brooks Healthcare Foundation, to pay for half the cost of 10 new hospital beds for Mercy Carthage Hospital.
The vote was 5-1 in favor, but the resolution needed a majority of the council, or six votes to be approved, so it was rejected.
Ward 2 Council Member David Armstrong cast the single, and it turned out decisive, no vote. Council Members Brady Beckham and Kirby Newport, who had spoken out against the resolution, and Council Member Alan Snow, who was absent at the previous meeting, were all absent on Tuesday. Council Member James Harrison, who is a member of the McCune Brooks Hospital Board of Trustees, abstained.
Before the vote, during the public comment period, Elizabeth Simmons, director of the McCune Brooks Healthcare Foundation, spoke about the proposal.
She clarified that Mercy Hospital Carthage, along with the entire Mercy hospital system, are not-for-profit organizations, contrary to comments by council members at the meeting two weeks ago.
She also clarified that the hospital did not request the grant, the foundation made the request as part of a fundraiser planned for August.
“This was our first opportunity to work with the Trust on a project in hopes it would lead to further cooperation on larger projects that would come along in the future,” Simmons said. “Who knew that requesting funding from a Trust for the health and wellness of the community for equipment benefitting the largest health and wellness provider in the community would be so controversial. Like so many others, I was dismayed by the loss of our city-owned hospital but I am grateful we continue to have a flourishing medical facility for our residents and the surrounding area.”
Simmons pointed out that when it bought the former McCune Brooks Hospital, Mercy paid off $40 million in outstanding bonds left over from the construction of the new hospital in 2007, meaning the city wasn't liable for them if the hospital defaulted.
“The $20 million in the trust, was beyond that bond payoff,” Simmons said. “In the past year, the hospital has provided $9 million in underwritten or charged off care for area patients. Our Board of Directors felt strongly that just as we supported McCune Brooks Hospital in the past, we should continue serving the needs of Mercy Carthage Hospital when we are able to do so.”
In announcing that he would oppose the resolution, Armstrong said he had received quite a bit of feedback on the resolution, something he rarely receives on council issues.
“This in particular has people's attention,” Armstrong said. “I feel that in many regards, the attention it has received is because of what it is for. This is for beds at a hospital, which is about the most basic thing you could have at a hospital besides gloves and scrubs. These beds are on a rotation and will be replaced regardless of whether we take action on this or not. And on that alone, and the feedback I have received, it is my duty and my responsibility to represent the views of the people of Ward 2. And in that regard, whether the vote passes or not, I intend to vote no because I'm a representative and that's my responsibility.”
Ward 3 Council Member Ceri Otero, said she too had received feedback from people telling her they wanted her to opposed the resolution, but she voted in favor of it.
“That was what was so sticky in this for me, was that folks felt like the trust money, that's sitting there, if the city had any say in it, they shouldn't spend it on something there,” Otero said. “I say that because I know you all wondered why it is controversial, and I can't say why it's controversial for the others, but that's why it is for me. And because it is such a small amount, I don't want to be cheap and quibble over that.”

The McCune Brooks Hospital Trust was created in 2015 from the money paid to the city by Mercy to purchase the city-owned hospital three years after Mercy had taken over management of it in the wake of the Joplin tornado.
In its original request, the McCune Brooks Healthcare Foundation, which is separate from the Trust, said Mercy had already bought 15 beds to replace beds that had been in use in the hospital since it was completed in 2007.
The hospital asked the Healthcare Foundation to fund 10 more new beds, and the Foundation applied to the Trust for half the cost of those 10 beds to be matched by the Foundation through a fundraiser later this year.

In other business
The council voted 7-0 to approve the other grant request from the McCune Brooks Hospital Trust for $25,000 to the Fair Acres Family Y to create a committee to look into building an aquatics center to replace the current pool at Municipal Park.
The money will be used to hire a designer to come up with plans and to pay for a citizens committee to travel to other communities to look at other aquatics centers.