RAWLINS – Less than a year ago, the Memorial Hospital of Carbon County Board of Trustees began preliminary talks regarding the possibility of adding a new clinic to the community, according to board president Henry Hewitt.
While there were numerous building site options available, said Hewitt, it was in February the board approved – after legal review – the purchase of two locations within Rawlins city limits: the Bi-Rite property, a defunct gift shop and pharmacy, and a vacant lot owned by Elks Lodge No. 609.
According hospital officials, cost estimates are currently unavailable; however, once architectural and contractual proceedings are finalized, figures will be made public.
The Bi-Rite property, located at the corner of 3rd and Buffalo streets, has been owned by board secretary Rod Waeckerlin since November 1998, according to a warranty deed obtained from the Carbon County Clerk’s Office.
To squash any notions of conflict of interest, on Friday, Waeckerlin told the Rawlins Daily Times that he abstained from any sort of negotiations regarding the purchase.
“I have slipped out of all of that stuff,” Waeckerlin said. “Every time real estate was brought up, I exited the room.”
Hewitt also vouched for Waeckerlin, saying, on Thursday, “Rod has not participated in any contract negotiations. He has not attended those sessions.”
To ensure the board did in fact execute the property acquisition within legal confines, according to APG Media of the Rockies LLC legal expert Bruce Moats, had Waeckerlin not recused himself from these procedures, the action could have been subject to prosecution.
“He’s no supposed to participate in any way,” said Moats. “He has done what he has supposed to do.”
There are two major Wyoming State Legal Statues that Moats cited in which evidently absolve the hospital from any legal recourse pertaining to any potential conflicts of interest.
This includes the “Ethics and Disclosure Act” (Wyo. Statute 9-13-101 through 109) and Wyo. Statue 16-6-118.
According to Moats, the latter states that any appointed or elected official in question is in the clear if the representative “absents himself from any consideration” and “does not attempt to influence the contracting parties.”
As for the Bi-Rite building itself – approximately 7,500 sq. ft. – the project plan is to render its interior to accommodate up to seven healthcare providers, as well as space for examinations, X-rays and labs, said Hewitt.
Once materialized, said Hewitt, the idea for the modern amenities is to make it “attractive to recruit” more medical practitioners to the area.
In addition, Hewitt said the board selected the Bi-Rite location due to its vicinity to downtown Rawlins and its high traffic levels.
According to hospital officials, the lot purchased from Elks will be used for additional parking.
Despite the lack of preliminary figures, Hewitt said hospital officials will pay for a reasonable asking price.
Waeckerlin was also pressed about project costs, but, fearing any sort of legal infringement, he refrained from divulging the information.
To finance the project, Hewitt said cash reserves in the hospital budget will be allocated, while a local bank will be selected to defray costs attached to any leasing agreements.
According to Hewitt, the board hopes to have the project bid prior to the end of summer. Once all bids are analyzed and one is selected, they anticipate the project to start going into the fall.
“This is going to be one of the biggest things ever to hit this county,” said Waeckerlin. “In my opinion, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County is our most important entity.”
The next MHCC board meeting is June 28 at 6 p.m. Hospital CEO Dana Barnett was unavailable for comment upon deadline.