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Updated: 04/02/2014 08:00:04AM

Commission gives medical center tax break, kind of

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The Fort Meade City Commission has awarded $1,098.85 to the Fort Meade Community Health Care Board after they had requested tax relief for property taxes on their clinic.

The board had requested that the city return the property taxes they paid last year on their facility, the Fort Meade Community Health Care Clinic, which amounted to just less than $1,100.

“Our organization has had very limited funds, and for the last several years have had a negative operating budget,” Mike Stedem, director of the Fort Meade Clinic, explained in an email last December to City Manager Fred Hilliard. “The fact that we lease to a for-profit practice, prevents us from being tax exempt.”

The board sent two representatives to the city’s March commission meeting, Treasurer Wayne Gunter and Secretary Don Marchman, to address the local leaders.

In order to attract physicians to their community, the board rents their 7,000 square feet at a reduced rate which totals only about $33,000 annually.

“The objective is to rent that clinic at a rate so attractive that a physician would want to practice in Fort Meade,” Gunter explained.

The clinic still has about $88,000 to pay off its mortgage, which officials indicated should be paid off in about five or six years.

The commission can’t simply waive the tax, but instead agreed to make a contribution in the amount the board paid in property taxes, which was $1,098.85.

When asked if the city had enough money in their budget to make the contribution, city finance director Mel Parker replied that they did not have the money currently in the budget, but that an adjustment was possible, and he would need to find out the exact dollar amount the board paid last year.

The Fort Meade Health Care Clinic was founded in 1989 following the departure of its only three physicians — two who moved, and one who passed away — leaving the community without a doctor for the first time within a century.

Several concerned citizens, in cooperation with Bartow Memorial Hospital, formed a nonprofit organization which raised funds to purchase the old Dr. Carrion Building, convert it into the Fort Meade Community Health Care Clinic, and hire Dr. Luis Favilli to run it.

For more than 24 years, Dr. Favilli served the Fort Meade community before recently stepping down and leaving the clinic in the hands of his nephew and niece-in-law, Dr. Alner Miguel Quinonez and his wife Dr. Marcela Arguedas.

The clinic is community-run, owned and operated by a board of directors,

The old building that was used for the clinic was purchased for $22,000.

Aside from the rent it receives from the physician, the clinic also relies on the donations from the community, which is placed in a fund and kept in a reserve. Currently, the clinic has $30,000, which along with the equity already built up on the building still leaves the operation in overall very good financial shape, Stedem noted.

Those who make such contributions are honored by having their names posted on the wall inside the clinic.

One of the more memorable donations they had received was $500 from McNellia Jackson, who was able to raise the money by baking and selling homemade fruit pies.

“That is a lot of money, and she works for every dollar she earns,” Gunter said. “If that is not the ‘biggest’ contribution in Florida, I don’t know what is.”

Once their mortgage is paid off, they plan on using their fund primarily for health care. Once the building is paid off, they would like to use that money to develop scholarships for nursing students.

City Commissioner Barbara Manley had suggested building an assisted- living facility once their mortgage is settled.

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