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Politics

Colorado Attorney General Says No 'Overriding Concerns' In Banner Health, Weld Deal

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Matt Bloom
/
KUNC News
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks to a crowd at Aims Community College in Greeley.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Friday he hasn’t heard any “overriding concerns” from the public regarding a multi-million dollar land sale between Weld County and Banner Health, offering a strong indication that the deal will pass the state’s muster in the coming weeks.

Weiser was in Greeley hosting a town hall at Aims Community College, where dozens of public officials and CEOs gathered to sing their praises for the deal, valued at $328.4 million.

“When we look at the future of Weld County, I believe it’s really bright,” Weiser said in his opening remarks. “And it’s bright because we can be in this work together.”

In August, Weld County announced plans to sell its remaining assets associated with North Colorado Medical Center to Banner, which has operated the facility since 1995. Weld has had ties to the hospital since 1904, when it was built on county-owned land.

Over time, the county has slowly distanced itself from day-to-day operations. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County commissioner, said the pending deal with Banner represents the government’s final step out the door.

“What better hands to have it in as you transition and keep transitioning it to a healthcare provider who understands the provision of healthcare and how to make sure it’s effective in our community?” Kirkmeyer said.

Margo Karsten, CEO of Banner’s hospitals in Northern Colorado, said during the town hall that the deal was the most exciting she’d seen in her entire career.

“We’re not going away,” Karsten said. “We’re going to deepen our healthcare presence here and commitment to the underserved — that’s who we are.”

If the deal goes through, the $328.4 million in proceeds will be divided up.

According to Weld County, $209.5 million will go toward bond debt held by the Colorado Health Facilities Authority, a financing vehicle for healthcare facilities formed by the state legislature.

The remaining $118.9 million will be split into two philanthropic efforts.

The Weld commissioners will get $59.4 million to help fund the Bright Futures Program, a workforce development effort.

NCMC Inc., a private non-profit that manages the operating agreement for the hospital, will get $59.5 million to help start a new charitable foundation.

One attendee at Friday’s meeting, Ron Clark, a former physician at North Colorado Medical Center, questioned officials about what he considered a lack of public control over the proceeds being given to NCMC.

“I hate to use the word incestual but it sounds like that to me,” Clark said. “If nine members of the board in charge of the foundation are chosen by the board itself, it doesn’t sound like the people of Weld County have a heck of a lot of input into how that money is spent.”

In response, Bob Murphy, NCMC’s finance committee chairman, said he couldn’t speak to how much say the citizens of Weld County will have moving forward.

“As a 501(c)(3) (the Attorney General) oversees our mission and makes sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Murphy said. “I feel very good about what we’ve done and what we’ll do in the future.”

In the coming days, Weiser said his office will be “doing its homework” before he signs off on the deal. He pointed to two major questions he had:

  • Is there a change in the charitable purpose (of the money) that subverts what prior investors thought this was going to be?

  • Are there risks that Weld County will lose assets that should be here serving the people of Weld County?

“We’re definitely in the last few innings,” Weiser said. “We’re going to work hard with the parties and help the people of Colorado know that their assets are guarded.”

A spokesman for Weiser confirmed to expect a final decision on the proposed sale in about a week.