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Sackets Harbor, Hounsfield consider subsidizing Samaritan clinic in the village

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SACKETS HARBOR — Officials from the village and the town of Hounsfield appear interested in providing some form of financial support to a planned primary care clinic run by Samaritan Medical Center in the village, but have expressed some concern about directing municipal funds to a private business.

One proposal would have the village and town each pay just under $680 per month. If the two municipalities were to support the clinic, it would join the combined town and village of Cape Vincent as municipalities that provide financial support to the hospital group.

The clinic will be operated at 107 Barracks Road, in a space previously used by a chiropractor. The 2,300-square-foot space is next door to the former primary care clinic run by Carthage Area Hospital, which closed in May. The previous clinic was about 900 square feet.

Plans to create the space had reportedly been approved by Samaritan’s board of trustees, pending approval by its finance committee. The finance committee then proposed the subsidy.

While the hospital group did not specify the level of funding, a letter from the hospital to the village Board of Trustees indicated the rent would be $2,265 per month, and would rise by 2.1 percent each year for a period of 10 years.

If the village and town were to support the clinic at a level similar to Cape Vincent, which pays 60 percent of the Samaritan clinic’s rent, the two municipalities would pay in its first year a combined total of $1,359 per month, or $679.50 if split evenly.

Other reasons given by the hospital for the subsidy for the village clinic were the low chance of breaking even in the first two to three years and the extensive repairs needed before the clinic could become operational.

Michael W. Campbell, a representative for Lawler Realty, which owns the space, said Tuesday night that extensive water and electric renovations would be necessary to meet the standards of the state Department of Health, costing the hospital as much as $150,000. Samaritan has already spent between $15,000 and $20,000 to draw up floor plans for the space.

While several members of the village’s board expressed support for the project, there were concerns about using municipal funds to subsidize a private entity.

Trustee John W. LaDuc said that while it could be argued the clinic would be a necessary service, it could create a precedent for other businesses that would like to develop in the village, like a day-care center.

“You can make an argument it’s necessary,” Mr. LaDuc said.

To make the subsidy more palatable, Mr. LaDuc argued the village should negotiate a series of additional services the hospital would provide in the village, creating what he called a “community commitment.”

Among the possible services Mr. LaDuc proposed the hospital offer were flu shot clinics and free sports physicals.

The proposal appeared to gain support from the rest of the board. Though no motion was passed, the board approved moving forward with considering the subsidy pending the creation of a list of services that would be negotiated.

Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said Wednesday afternoon that the hospital did not have similar stipulations at other clinics, but that its leadership would be willing to hear their requests.

The Town Council on Wednesday night also expressed reservations with providing funding, despite no specific funding levels being discussed.

Councilman Vincent J. Battista said he was undecided until he learned more about the details of the clinic’s staffing and operations, and that much of the information provided was ambiguous.

Town Supervisor Timothy W. Scee said the feedback he had received was positive.

“Our issue is how do we put taxpayer money into a contract with Samaritan,” he said.

Peter B. Bryant, economic development coordinator for the village, town and the village Chamber of Commerce, said the combined economic development committee would discuss its list of requests to Samaritan on Friday.

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