03-07-2019 Watervliet City moving forward with Asset Management Plan; eyes $3 million loan to upda

Watervliet City moving forward with Asset Management Plan; eyes $3 million loan to update infrastructure

By Annette Christie The Watervliet City Commission approved the Asset Management Plan with Wightman and Associates at their Tuesday, March 5 meeting. This secures the decision they made in January to move forward following three months of in depth discussions on the subject. In developing an asset management plan, the city can decide how to manage and fund future improvements to their aged infrastructure. Through the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater Grant the city has already been able to assess inventory, make conditional assessments, establish the level of service, evaluate the criticality of the systems, and to develop a capital improvement plan for its storm water and sewer systems. Other pieces of the puzzle include technology tools that will provide permanent records that tell the story of the city’s infrastructure no matter who is sitting at the commissioner table or serving as city staff. All of the data, maintenance, and history are available at the click of the button. With an asset management plan in place, the city can go from being a fix it when it breaks scenario into a more proactive system. With giving Wightman and Associates the go ahead with the city-wide asset management plan, the city will be able to see from a financial standpoint what kind of increases in rates it would take to do capital improvements. The figures for the operating expenditures included what the city is currently paying for treatment costs. With approximately a 6% increase per year, the city could possibly undertake a $3 million bond issue which could allow the city to actually go in and complete the infrastructure improvements once and for all.

A $3 million USDA loan would be for 40 years at a rate of about 3.25%. With an annual 6% rate increase from 2019 until 2029, the city then could reduce the annual increases to about 1.5% going forward from 2029. Once improvements are made, costs should actually go down, and ultimately that savings would be passed down to the residents. The city will be looking at creating a 20-year plan for getting their systems where they need to be and maintaining them. Along with that, the City Commission was provided a list of action items that will be taken to fine tune the standard operating procedures of City Hall. This will increase efficiency in the office as well as addressing audit issues that require corrective actions. Part of the action items includes training for city hall staff as well as establishing a financial model that can be used in budgeting.

The City Commission also approved an initiating resolution requesting that Berrien County undertake the Wastewater Treatment Plant improvement project through bond issuance. All of the municipalities that own the plant will be approving the same resolution. The bond will allow the plant to pay off the loans from a clarifier project as well as a previous loan taken out by the plant.

Lakeland named among 100 Top Hospitals in the USA in annual study

IBM Watson Health published its 100 Top Hospitals annual study March 4, 2019 naming Lakeland Medical Center and Lakeland Hospital Niles among the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. based on overall organizational performance. The federal government recognizes the two hospitals as a single entity; thus, the recognition applies to both hospitals. To conduct the 100 Top Hospitals study, IBM Watson Health researchers evaluated 3,156 short-term, acute care, non-federal hospitals across the nation based on a balanced scorecard of publicly available clinical, operational, and patient satisfaction metrics and data. Lakeland was also named a 100 Top Hospital in 2013 and a 15 Top Hospital in 2017. The IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals winners outperformed peer group hospitals within all 10 clinical and operational performance benchmarks evaluated in the study: risk-adjusted inpatient mortality index, risk-adjusted complications index, mean healthcare-associated infection index, mean 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rate, mean 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rate, severity-adjusted length of stay, mean emergency department throughput, case mix- and wage-adjusted inpatient expense per discharge, adjusted operating profit margin, and HCAHPS score. Extrapolating the results of this year’s study, if all Medicare inpatients received the same level of care as those treated in the award-winning facilities: More than 103,000 additional lives could be saved; more than 38,000 additional patients could be complication-free; more than $8.2 billion in inpatient costs could be saved; approximately 155,000 fewer discharged patients would be readmitted within 30 days. “We have been on a journey over the past decade to provide quality, compassionate care to our friends and neighbors and this recognition is a direct reflection of our team members’ commitment to this effort,” said Loren B. Hamel, MD, President, Spectrum Health Lakeland. “Looking ahead, we are excited to continue doing this great work, together with Spectrum Health. Through our recent integration, there are many ways we can continue to learn from each other to help achieve these goals.” “From small community hospitals to major teaching hospitals, these diverse hospitals have demonstrated that quality care, higher patient satisfaction, and operational efficiency can be achieved together,” said Kyu Rhee, M.D., M.P.P., vice president and chief health officer at IBM Watson Health. “In this era of big data, analytics, transparency, and patient empowerment, it is essential that we learn from these leading hospitals and work to spread their best practices to our entire health system.” All research was based on the following public data sets: Medicare cost reports, Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MEDPAR) data, and core measures and patient satisfaction data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare website. Hospitals do not apply for awards, and winners do not pay to market this honor. For more information, visit www.100tophospitals.com.

Free youth mental health first aid courses offered Community members are invited to attend a free youth mental health first aid training course from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 15 at the Consortium for Community Development, located at 175 W. Main Street in Benton Harbor. The course is designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents and teaches participants how to assist young people experiencing a mental health crisis until appropriate help is received or until the crisis resolves. Training reviews typical adolescent development, teaches a five-step action plan to help young people in crisis, and helps participants understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. A training manual and certification is provided upon completion. Preregistration is required; call (269) 556-2808 or (866) 260-7544.