Hospital asks for flexibility in renting administrator’s home | AspenTimes.com
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Hospital asks for flexibility in renting administrator’s home

Allyn Harvey

Aspen Valley Hospital administrator Randy Middlebrook may not get to buy his home anytime soon, but his landlords may soon have a lot more flexibility in deciding who can rent it.

Middlebrook lives in a residence on the campus of Aspen Valley Hospital. While the house is owned by the hospital, its occupancy is regulated by the county’s affordable housing program.

As a result, it must be occupied either by the current administrator or a hospital employee who meets the Category 4 income and residency regulations at the housing department.

However, hospital attorney Paul Taddune and hospital board member Tom Griffiths asked the county commissioners yesterday to change the rules. The hospital, Taddune said, would like permission to rent the house to a “significant health care provider,” in all likelihood a doctor, in the event the house is not being occupied by the administrator.

Most doctors make more money than allowed under the Category 4 guidelines.

Taddune pointed out that the hospital has spent several thousand dollars on airline tickets and lodging for doctors from Denver who fill in at AVH while a position is being filled. He reckoned the hospital might save some money if it had a house available for such temps.

The commissioners were open to the proposal, but they wanted the hospital to come up with specific language that protects it against a doctor moving into the residence so that he can rent out his home elsewhere in the valley. The commissioners also said they could not make any changes without a public hearing.

A public firestorm erupted the last time the commissioners considered changing the status of the administrator’s residence. Last summer, the hospital board proposed selling it to Middlebrook, and the county commissioners agreed – initially. But once news about the deal got out, the commissioners changed course and rescinded the resolution that would have allowed the sale.

At least one hospital skeptic wonders why the hospital board is asking for yet another change in the status of the administrator’s residence.

“Why even bring this up until it comes up as a need?” asked Bill Brunworth, who was a senior manager at Aspen Valley Hospital until last fall. He resigned over the handling of the proposal to sell Middlebrook the home.

Specifically, Brunworth questioned the wisdom of the proposal to give the house to Middlebrook, because he thought it might cost the county several hundred thousand dollars.

The county granted the hospital a partial exemption from the affordable housing mitigation requirements that are tied to commercial construction when it applied to build an office complex in 1997. The exemption is based on the hospital’s ownership of the administrator’s residence.

Brunworth suspected the exemption would be lost if ownership was transferred to Middlebrook. At yesterday’s meeting, County Planning Director Cindy Houben issued an opinion confirming that suspicion.

“I feel vindicated by Cindy’s opinion,” he told the county commissioners.

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