A possible solution to Warren General Hospital's tax-exempt issue is being constructed by the hospital's CEO and the chairman of the Warren County Commissioners.
At a question and answer session during the hospital's public board meeting on Wednesday, Fr. John Neff of St. Luke's and St. Anthony's churches in Youngsville and Saybrook asked hospital CEO John Papalia about its real estate tax-exempt issue.
"I'm just a simple man. I don't claim to know all the ins and outs and the politics and the intrigues that goes on, okay. But how can you say that the community supports the hospital when the commissioners yanked the tax-exempt status from the hospital? Help me out here," Neff said.
Papalia replied, "I'd be lying to tell you that I wasn't just a little bit upset when we got a notice that said we were taxable, as well as the Rouse (Estate) and the YMCA and the Library Theatre and the Crary Home and many others."
"More recently, Tim (Bevevino, WGH board president) has learned of different opportunities for us to deal with this. I've been working with Commissioner (Chairman Stephen) Vanco, and we are working to come to a conclusion that will be meaningful and good for all of us in the county," he continued.
"It's not released yet, but I will tell you I'm impressed by the commissioner, and I think we're going to do something great, not something good. That will be a big burden to get off us, because if we were to be taxed at 1.7 million dollars, we wouldn't have to worry about being a community hospital or a system hospital, we wouldn't sustain," he said.
When asked about Papalia's comments on Thursday, Vanco said, "We've had ongoing dialogue just between John Papalia and myself, discussing possibilities and throwing ideas around."
Late in 2011, the Warren County Commissioners met with members of the Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals to determine if a number of properties still qualified for tax-exempt status.
Last August, Warren County Court of Common Pleas Judge Greg Hammond granted the hospital's motion for summary judgment and restored its tax-exempt status, ruling that the Warren County Board of Assessment Appeals acted without formal action from a taxing body.
"At best there was an informal meeting" between the Warren County Commissioners and the members of the appeals board, John Mehler, the attorney representing the hospital, said at the time. "There's no suggestion that there was any official meeting no agenda, no vote taken..."
"I don't think (lawsuits) are productive for the county or the hospital," Vanco said on Thursday.
According to one report, the potential agreement involves services in lieu of taxes rather than payment in lieu of taxes.
Vanco said a formal announcement could be made next week.