Walker County disputes Erlanger claims in court about Hutcheson debt
LAFAYETTE, Georgia (WDEF) – Sole commissioner disputes Erlanger’s claims in court over the debt Walker County owes the hospital.
Erlanger Health System is asking a federal court to force the county to immediately pay $8.7 million owed.
The court could impose a mandatory tax hike on citizens to pay the debt.
The money goes back to a loan from 2011 that the previous commissioner, Bebe Heiskell, pledged to cover to keep Hutcheson Medical Center open.
Whitfield defeated Heiskell in the last election, partly because of the financial problems that arose from that guarantee.
He doesn’t dispute that the county owes the debt.
But he does dispute Erlanger’s claims in court that he is ignoring it.
Whitfield says he has tried to re-negotiate the payment with Erlanger officials, but they have ignored him.
And he has already raised taxes to come up with the money.
“Erlanger’s petition is filled with several inaccurate statements which border on perjury, in an attempt to misrepresent Walker County’s efforts to communicate its present financial state and intention to make payments on the judgement against it,” says Commissioner Whitfield.
“Despite holding multiple meetings with Kevin Spiegel, Erlanger’s President and CEO, and enacting a new fee on our citizens to generate funds over the course of three years to pay Erlanger back, the country’s seventh largest public hospital falsely attests that we have ‘ignored’ them and ‘refused to pay any portion of the judgement.’ In reality, Erlanger has turned a deaf ear to pleas for compassion, as our citizens, who are also Erlanger’s patients, had no say in this loan and are physically sick when they learn how much is owed.”
The Commissioner challenges Erlanger prove any misinformation coming from his office.
“I have said we owe the money. I have said Erlanger wants paid in full immediately. I have publicly enacted a fee to start redistributing the hard earned money of our citizens to the seventh largest hospital in the country. I have let my citizens know about Erlanger’s threats to raise their property taxes seven mills to repay them for a bad business deal with an insolvent hospital and a broke county. Now, with this latest court filing, Erlanger has shown its true colors.”