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Heffernan finally seeing some light at the end of its long tunnel of debt

June 22, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — By Monday the Heffernan Memorial Hospital District could be in the black.

Eduardo Rivera, attorney for the district, told the board at its Thursday meeting that the local joint-powers authority signed off on the issuance of $11.36 million in bonds earlier that afternoon.

This bond issuance by the authority will allow the authority to take advantage of favorable interest rates and free up cash to pay off more than $1.5 million in district debt — possibly as early as the first of next week, according to Rivera.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the bonds, $365,473.79, will go to the city Redevelopment Agency. That will square up the $450,000 loan the RDA made to the district in 1997.


The RDA waived more than $80,000 it was owed because the hospital district, using funds from the 2001 bond issuance, will be paying the debt immediately, according to Rivera.

This agreement for the lower amount made by Rivera, City Attorney Michael Rood and special counsel for the RDA will settle a lawsuit the RDA board had filed in an attempt to force the district to repay the loan.

The 2001 bond issuance will be paid with money taken in by the city's half-cent sales tax for hospital services.

Once the bonds are paid off the authority will disintegrate and the tax will end.

That could happen in 2005, according to some estimates.

The authority was created in 1996 to sell and manage a $9.235 million bond issuance. It is made up of two hospital district trustees and two RDA board members.

To sell the 2001 bonds, Norma Apodaca, chairwoman of the hospital district, had to sign off on the documents because hospital trustee and authority board member David Ouzan walked away from his authority seat.

At Thursday's hospital meeting he explained why he quit.

"I felt that Jeffrey Goetz was trying to rush me into signing off on a multi-million dollar project," Ouzan said.

He ripped up a letter from Goetz, a San Diego attorney who serves as counsel for the authority.

"I asked Goetz if we could have a meeting (of the authority) and discuss the fees but there was no meeting," Ouzan said.

He continued: "We have some concerns about the fees. Something is not kosher."

Trustee Ray Falcon expressed disgust with the fees of Robert Swerdling. Swerdling, of Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffrey, will be selling the 2001 bonds on behalf of the authority.

Hospital board trustee and joint powers board member Rosie Fernandez told Ouzan and Falcon that everything was taken care of. She told him she and Apodaca met with Goetz on Thursday afternoon before they signed the document.

Rudolfo Moreno, the treasurer for the authority and the city, tried to allay some of Ouzan's concerns.

He explained how a bond is sold, why the fees are structured the way they are and what he was going to do.

"I'm going to make sure that we get all of the numbers," Moreno said. "I'll check out everything."

Ouzan thanked Moreno for his presentation and told the district board that an explanation similar to the one offered by Moreno would have been appropriate before the authority signed off on the bond issuance.

"They go in there (City Hall), have a 10-minute meeting and walk away," Ouzan said.

Moreno agreed the authority could have done more but stressed to Ouzan and the rest of the board, "This is a good deal."

Later in the meeting, the board discussed the possibility of Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo operating an urgent-care clinic in the hospital building nightly from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Falcon said a Clinicas representative told him it would be willing to work with the hospital district or any other medical service provider that might lease a section of the hospital.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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