Letter to the Editor

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2015

There are times when leaders are called upon to make decisions for the good of the citizens and communities they serve.

Often, these decisions face opposition and create conflict and division. Despite this, the decisions must be made. Not all that long ago, the Bainbridge City Council was called upon to make such a decision. The council chambers were packed, and to a person the crowd was against the decision before the council.

The question called for the council to spend $3.6 million and to raise water and sewer rates. The arguments were familiar: the new rates would burden the citizens, seniors on a fixed income would suffer, the decision should be put off to another day.

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The council though made the decision that had to be made. The date of that decision was June 2, 1970, and that council led by Mayor Walter Cox decided that Bainbridge would build a sewage treatment plant and stop the practice of discharging raw sewage into the Flint River. Who today would argue that this was the wrong decision?

We look back in amusement and wonder who could possibly be against clean water? The fact though is that the opposition was real and that city council showed true courage and foresight and in so doing secured the future of Bainbridge. For context, just consider that $3.6 million in 1970 is equivalent to over $22 million in today’s dollars.

I think that we are now witnessing another moment of political courage, and this time it is coming from our Decatur County Commission.

The decision to support our very own Memorial Hospital is one of those moments in the life of a community when we collectively decide whether we will make an investment to secure our future or whether we will accept the slow but inevitable decline that would surely come from inaction.

The hospital’s troubles are not self-inflicted. The rising cost of providing care to those who cannot pay coupled with lowered Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates have created this crisis. We can’t do anything about that but we can do something to solve the problem. Memorial Hospital is an economic engine for Decatur County providing over 600 jobs at above average wages and creating an overall economic impact of over $51 million.

Quite simply, we cannot afford to allow our hospital to fail. Without the financial support being provided by the county through tax revenue the hospital would fail. This is simply a fact, and it is a fact being faced all over rural Georgia by communities just like ours.

In some places like Wheeler County, Charlton County, Calhoun County and Stewart County, hospitals have already closed, and at least six other Georgia hospitals are on the verge of collapse. We simply cannot afford to allow that to happen here. No more than we could allow raw sewage to be dumped into the Flint.

I applaud the county commission for their courage and congratulate them for making the hard but necessary decision.

Edward Reynolds
Mayor, City of Bainbridge