An Open Letter To The Park Hospital Disrict Board Of Directors
To the Editor:
The residents of Estes Park are now engaged in a vigorous debate over the proposed sale of our Town owned Lot 4 to John Cullen, owner of the Stanley Hotel. With the support, and possible future participation of the Estes Park Medical Center (EPMC), Mr. Cullen has proposed that 50 hotel rooms and a wellness center be built on Lot 4.
Under the terms of the contract accepted by our Town Trustees, the EPMC Foundation has approximately two years to raise the requisite $5 million to build the wellness center. Should the Foundation fail to reach this fund raising goal, Mr. Cullen has offered to build the facility himself. The Anschutz Foundation has a small role to play; it will sell its wellness program model to the center here in Estes Park for an undisclosed amount, if and when the facility is built.
The Directors of the Park Hospital District have apparently embraced this project wholeheartedly, with the hospital’s CEO and several physicians making the rounds, speaking in support of the project. John Cullen and other proponents of the wellness center are devoting vast amounts of money and other resources to sell this idea to the voters of Estes Park with parties at the Stanley Hotel, automated phone calls, free bus trips to Denver and an impressive array of other tactics.
Supporters begin their basic argument with the assumption that the project will be a success and then go on to describe what that success will mean for the future of our Town. In this rhetorical slight-of-hand, the assumptions become the conclusions and only amount to saying, “If the wellness center succeeds then it will be a success.” This kind of hand waving contributes nothing substantial to the debate and insults our intelligence and our good faith. As we all know, contrary to popular political marketing, simply shouting the same baseless claims over and over does not make them true.
Of course, there is one, large, ugly elephant standing in the foyer of the so-called Stanley-Anschutz Wellness Center. Painted on the monster’s side in big white letters is the question: WHAT IF IT FAILS? Time after time, proponents of the project have sidestepped this fundamental question that should have been answered before one dime was spent and before the people of our Town were asked to sell Lot 4 for this project.
WHAT IF IT FAILS? For John Cullen, owner of the Stanley Hotel, the question is meaningless. For him there is no possible bad end to this story. If voters approve the sale of Lot 4, Mr. Cullen gets a very good deal on prime real estate, 50 new luxury hotel rooms and, most likely, a luxury spa building, regardless of who builds it and regardless of whether it is ultimately used as a medical facility.
WHAT IF IT FAILS? For the Directors of the Park Hospital District this question is of critical importance. The Directors are elected to respond wisely to challenges, generate creative solutions and make the hard decisions that improve access to health care and expand the quality and range of services to all the people of the Estes Valley and our visitors. In this difficult task they are supported by all of us who live in the Park Hospital taxing district. For example, owners of a property with an assessed value of $25,000 pay about $185.00 to support the Hospital each year. Among those who share the portion of Larimer county taxes that go to local services, our hospital is the big winner, receiving a substantially bigger cut than the Town, the Fire Protection District, the Library, Parks and Rec or the Sanitation District. In 2013 taxpayers gave our hospital $2,386,022.00.
So far, the proposed wellness center to be built on the vacant Lot 4 in front of the Stanley Hotel looks like a monument to wishful thinking and poses a poorly timed risk to our hospital’s future as it struggles to make ends meet, year after year. On behalf of the residents of the Estes Valley who are the owners and supporters of the EPMC, I urge the elected Directors of the Park Hospital District to break your silence on this issue. As a gesture of confidence, accountability and transparency, explain why you have decided to devote time, energy and a mountain of money to build a luxury wellness center at a private hotel for the benefit of a few wealthy people from out-of-town.
In the absence of any evidence to support the claim that this $5 million gamble will indeed produce the promised ”revenue stream” for the hospital, the pursuit of this project appears reckless and irresponsible. An independent, professionally prepared feasibility study and a detailed business plan, similar to those being prepared for our Community Recreation Center, should be presented to the residents of Estes Park well before the April 1st vote. Only then can we make an informed, wise decision about the proposal to sell Lot 4 to John Cullen.
Christopher Reveley, M.D.