St. Lukes proposes for-profit MOB
County considers application tomorrow
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Tomorrow evening, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission will
meet for a third time to discuss St. Lukes application to build and operate a
40,000-square-foot medical office building next to its nearly completed hospital.
Bill Bodnar, St. Lukes vice president for corporate development,
disclosed in a recent e-mail exchange that the medical building would be a for-profit
operation unlike the nearby tax-exempt hospital.
If approved, the medical building will need a final go-ahead from the
Blaine County Commissioners before construction begins.
Tomorrows public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the old
Blaine County Courthouse.
During a previous meeting held earlier this month, P&Z chairman Tom
Bowman told hospital officials that P&Z must consider only design and land-use issues
in making its determination.
Financial viability, he said, could not be taken into account.
However, hospital officials say the medical office building is a
financially necessary component of their new medical complex south of Ketchum. Without the
building, they say, health care in the county will suffer due to lack of revenue.
Critics say St. Lukes should not be allowed to build the office
building because it is a strictly money-making venture.
Similar questions about St. Lukes tax-exempt status in Boise two
years ago caused legislators to begin revamping long-standing state tax laws.
The result was House Bill 154, passed in 1999, which distinguishes between
tax-exempt hospital structures and related property that is "not directly related to
the hospitals purposes and is therefore assessed and taxed as any other
Under the new legislation, the proposed medical office building is taxable
because it is a for-profit entity created to help support the tax-exempt new hospital.
Even so, the Idaho Hospital Association, a powerful advocacy group of
which St. Lukes is one of a handful of members, called passage of the bill "a
major legislative accomplishment" in its 1999 annual report.
During a telephone interview from Boise last week, Bodnar said the bill
was characterized as a major accomplishment because "it did not mean hospitals could
be taxed more than they were before."
Bodnar said Blaine County donors, who contributed nearly $19 million to
the new medical complex in 1998, are not in danger of losing their ability to claim a tax
write-off because St. Lukes intends to pay for the proposed office building with its
Bodnar said he does not yet have a cost estimate for the office building
So far, however, Bodnar said St. Lukes has contributed more than $6
million dollars to the $32 million hospital project.
Given a long list of guidelines that asks such non-financially related
questions as whether proposed construction will be harmonious with the surrounding area,
P&Z members during the previous meeting said they have a difficult task ahead of them.
Declared Commissioner Theresa Comber, "This is the hardest thing
Ive done in four and a half years."