Chilton Co. considers one cent sales tax for new hospital

Travelers on I-65 through Chilton County - as well as people who live there - are without emergency services, {}after the county's only hospital shut down. Now, the county has a proposal on the table to build a new facility.

Chilton Medical Center closed almost one year ago, leaving an entire county without emergency services. While a plan is in the works for a new hospital, people who live here say, in the meantime, they're in a dangerous situation.

"It means people's lives," Dr. Jon Eric Binkerd said. "There are people who have not survived in my opinion because they didn't have the access to care."

Dr. Jon Eric Binkerd was named general surgeon at Chilton Medical Center- just before it closed. He says, county physicians have been trying to help patients who now have to travel to Alabaster or Prattville.

"Mainly we're just trying to maintain a presence so that patients know they have somewhere they can go and still get medical care," Binkerd said.

The hospital board considered repairing the aging medical center, but the upgrade cost was too high, so the board decided to build a new one operated by St. Vincent's.

"Establish another building, another facility, build it, and get that problem fixed for the next 50 years," Judge Sibley Reynolds, hospital board secretary said.

To pay for it, the county is proposing a one cent sales tax which will dissolve after the new building is paid off.

"People know that we have got to have healthcare in this county," Allen Caton, Commission Chair said. "They don't want to travel to Alabaster, they don't want to travel to Prattville. They want to have healthcare right here in their county."

People we met, say they're willing to pay it in order to have a hospital again.

"I'd be willing to pay another penny," Margaret Mims, who lives in Chilton Co. said.

"A county of our size - we need a hospital!" David Maddox, who lives in Chilton Co. said.

"In this town, we have a lot of older people, a lot of sick people, we definitely need a hospital here," John Southard, who lives in Chilton Co. said.

"The sooner we can get a hospital for our community, the safer we will be," Binkerd said.

Senator Cam Ward, who represents Chilton County says he is in favor of a resolution allowing people to vote on a new hospital. It will go before the Legislature in February, allowing people to vote by June.