Tax abatement for rehab hospital gets final OK from Monroe County

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Monroe’s county council voted unanimously to give final approval of a tax abatement to Ernest Health, Inc. worth about $3.1 million.

Sometime in June, the company is now expected to start building a $20-million inpatient rehabilitation hospital at the corner of Curry Pike and State Road 46. Ernest Health already operates 28 hospitals across the country—most of them in a swath of states from Texas up to Montana.

Construction of the 40-bed facility is expected to be complete around June 2021. The rehab facility will treat patients who are recovering from highly-acute cases, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, stroke, orthopedic, and neurological injuries.

County commissioners completed their part of the tax abatement process a week earlier, at their May 6 regular meeting, approving a statement of benefits by Ernest Health. By the third year the hospital is operating, there are supposed to be 110 jobs new provided at the facility, with an average salary of $64,000 a year.

The revision to the planned unit development (PUD) zoning for the new hospital’s parcel still needs final approval. That’s now expected at the May 13 meeting of the board of commissioners. The PUD revision  appeared on the commissioners May 6 meeting agenda, in addition to the statement of benefits. All three commissioners spoke in support of adding  “hospital/wellness facility”  to the list of uses that are permitted by the PUD zoning.

But when the revision to the PUD zoning was in front of the plan commission, no one from the public appeared to offer comment, commissioner Julie Thomas reported. So Thomas wanted to give the public an additional chance to comment. Before delaying their vote, commissioners first confirmed that waiting until May 13 for the rezoning decision would not delay the construction timeline.

At Tuesday’s (May 12) county council hearing on the tax abatement, the proposal got support from Jim Shelton, government relations manager with the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce and Clark Greiner, business development director of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.

County councilor Geoff McKim responded to some remarks from Randy Paul during the hearing by saying Rural Transit currently provides service to the location. McKim hopes that a partnership with Bloomington Transit (BT) could be established, even though it’s now outside of BT’s service area. McKim said some kind of public-private partnership could pay for the transit service.

Expanding BT’s service area outside of Bloomington’s city limits would also require action by Bloomington’s city council to change the local ordinance defining BT’s service area.

The abatement approved by the council decreases over the next decade. Each year the amount of the abatement would decrease by 10 percent, starting in the first year at 100 percent, or full abatement.

Over the 10-year period of the abatement, Ernest Health would also pay about $3.1 million in new taxes. The parcel where the hospital is planned is split between two townships, Bloomington Township and Richland Township. So the abatement schedule has to be analyzed township by township.

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