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Carbon hopes to help BMHS save $1M

Published November 11. 2011 05:02PM

Blue Mountain Health System is hoping to save $1 million with the help of Carbon County's credit rating.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board of commissioners authorized Blue Mountain Health System to investigate the potential for refinancing two series 1999 bonds. Carbon County is the guarantor of those bonds.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said that Blue Mountain Health System is trying to reduce its current debt by refinancing nearly $9 million in bonds from the Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton campuses.

"We're happy to be part of this," O'Gurek said, adding that prior boards of commissioners entered into the guarantor position with Blue Mountain Health System and allowed them to use the county's A-plus rating.

The bonds run through 2019 and 2014.

O'Gurek noted that the bonds that will be refinanced are 1999 bonds worth $6.1 million and $2.7 million.

"They will be refinancing $8.7 million for which they are now paying 4.7 percent on one bond issue and 5.5 percent on another," he said. "They are hopeful that with the county's assistance, they will be able to get a rate in the 2.7 or 2.8 range."

Blue Mountain Health System will now begin the process of refinancing the bonds and will forward all necessary paperwork related to the county guarantee to the commissioners.

In other matters, Carl Wilgus, president and CEO of Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau, provided the commissioners with the bureau's annual report for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Wilgus highlighted some of the things PMVB has accomplished in recent months, including the increase in tourism in Carbon County and a strong marketing campaign; an increase in visits to the PMVB website; making PMVB a social media presence on outlets such as Facebook and Twitter; setting up webcams around the Poconos; and streamlining operations to cut down on costs without sacrificing quality.

"In general, we noticed in this last fiscal year (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011) it was a continually slow rebound off the recession," he said.

He also noted that state funding for the organization has been cut significantly since 2007, when PMVB received $1.8 million for tourism promotion. For this fiscal year, PMVB's funding has been cut to $34,000.

"That is a drop off that represents what has happened to our industry, and what's happened to a lot of other organizations that received support from the state in the past," Wilgus said.

He added that overall, he sees growth over the next few years.

The board also voted to adopt a resolution designating the Carbon County 2010 Hazard Mitigation Plan as the official plan of the county.

The hazard mitigation plan looks at the issues that occur throughout the county, that create problems for residents and officials.

It then determines ways to prevent disasters from occurring, and create plans to help when natural disasters strike.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein announced that House Bill 284 was approved by the governor and is expected to provide counties with some relief from the bidding process mandates.

Commissioner Charles Getz also voiced his opinion about the campaign for the General Election and addressed numerous fliers that were sent out by the state Republican party about O'Gurek.

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