Lawton_Officials at Hospice of Southwest Oklahoma hope to begin the groundbreaking of a project that has been in the works for more than three years. By October, officials at Hospice hope to start construction. It already has raised $2 million to help build the facility, and has been approved for an almost $5 million loan from four local banks. Officials say all that remains is to get the backing for the funds from Comanche County.
Since 1983, Hospice of Southwest Oklahoma, a non-profit agency, has served more than 2,700 patients and their families. They say that because the senior citizen population of Comanche County and surrounding counties is projected to increase by 2010, southwest Oklahoma will not be able to serve its community properly without it.
CEO for Hospice of Southwest Oklahoma, Susan Fortune, says the facility is long overdue. "If you've been a caregiver of a dying loved one, you can imagine the stress that a family goes through," she said. In 2004, the State of Oklahoma passed a law allowing hospice inpatient facilities, and since then Oklahomans have pushed for the first of its kind facility in Oklahoma. "We had a very successful capital campaign about two years ago," said Fortune. "We raised $2 million dollars in our community."
However, Hospice still needed more money, and they got a loan from multiple local banks, but since the loans must be facilitated by a government agency, and Comanche County Commissioners are in charge, Hospice was the topic of Monday's Comanche County Commissioners Meeting.
Although the loan has been approved by the Comanche County Industrial Development Authority, it must be approved by the county to be federally-backed - and it will save Hospice big bucks if it is. "It's a tax-free loan that when they receive the money back, it's not taxable to them," said Fortune. "Therefore the banks are able to give us a lower rate." The rate will be so low that it is predicted to save $75 million over the span of the loan.
If Hospice doesn't get the support from the county, they'll have to get a loan with a much higher interest rate, "which would make the payments so much higher, and there would be a possibility we would not be able to build this facility," said Fortune. Lawton City Council was supposed to make a decision about their backing of the project on Monday, but there was an oversight and Hospice did not make the agenda. The issue is tabled until next week's meeting. If backed, the loan will provide the facility with nearly 17,000 square feet, along with a full staff of nurses, social workers, and chaplains on staff 24 hours per day.
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