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Fate of hospital sale proceeds still in limbo

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council moved closer to an agreement Wednesday regarding the utilization of $12 million the City of Worthington received and the $9 million which has yet to be received in installments from the sale of Worthington Regional Hospital to Sanford Health Network.

No funds were specifically designated toward any project, and the exact distribution of the funds has not been determined.

The council did tentatively favor the division of the $21 million into two pieces, with $9 million going to leverage community development such as housing assistance and economic development and $12 million going into investments. Should the council approve the $9 million-$12 million split, a portion of the interest from the $12 million will replenish the $9 million community development fund, keeping it flush with cash, with the remaining interest going toward other projects.

Those projects have not yet been designated and would likely be decided by the council as they came up.

After a long discussion, the majority of the council decided that in 20 years, the $21 million would still be there, and with investments and paybacks to the fund, it should grow.

"We kept trying to come up with the spreadsheet before we came up with a concept," said Alderman Mike Woll, adding he was glad the council was on the same page with regard to the hospital funds.

Several times throughout the meeting, council members stated they wanted to be good stewards but also wanted to use some of the money to make a difference.

"We need to be able to leverage this money," said Alderman Ron Wood.

Splitting the money into two parts, the council believes, would fulfill both obligations. The capital of the $9 million would be utilized for projects and paid back with interest from the remaining $12 million. Capital from that $12 million would not be touched.

The council was careful not to designate any additional funds for specific projects yet, until after the final decision on the $12 million-$9 million split is made at a later date.

The cash assets held by the hospital at the closing date, approximately $3 million, have not yet been dispersed to the city, said Mayor Alan Oberloh.