Brown County Commission

By Joey May | Hiawatha World

The Brown County Commission met Monday morning to canvass the 40 provisional ballots from the Nov. 5 election. From left, Commissioners Dwight Kruse, Keith Olsen and Richard Lehmkuhl, County Clerk Melissa Gormley (facing away) and County Attorney Kevin Hill.

The half-cent sales tax question to benefit the Hiawatha Community Hospital on the Nov. 5 ballot was defeated by 2 votes.

That became official after canvassing 40 provisional ballots by the Brown County Commission Monday morning revealed the final count: No-1,285 to Yes-1,283 to a packed room that included Hiawatha and Horton city officials, along with representatives from Hiawatha Community Hospital. Assisting with the vote canvassing were County Clerk Melissa Gormley, Deputy Clerk Dawn Boyles and Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill, who advised the commissioners on state statutes for reasons to dismiss a provisional ballot.

On election night, Tuesday, Nov. 5, the final tally after counting all 18 precincts was 1267 No and 1264 yes votes. That Friday, an additional 7 mail-in ballots were counted, which brought the vote to No-1,270 to Yes-1,268 votes.

After reviewing the 40 provisional ballots, 10 of them were dismissed due to reasons of no registration and no photo ID. Two ballots were hand counted — both yes votes — due to marks on the ballot. As the commissioners reviewed the remainder of the ballots, they were accepted for reasons according to state statute — such as a change of address within the county. Another voter had to provide a photo ID before Monday’s canvassing.

This is the second time voters have cast their ballots on this countywide tax. In May, the same question was brought to voters in a special election. It was defeated by 29 votes at that time.

A half-cent sales tax could generate $750,000 to $800,000 in annual revenue countywide. Hospital officials say they need up to double that amount yearly to catch up on equipment and facility upgrades.

While the outcome wasn’t what HCH officials were hoping for, they plan to move forward in continuing to offer the best service they can.

“While the outcome of the vote was not what we hoped for, it is important for the communities we serve to understand that the outcome does not change our mission or our vision,” said CEO John Broberg. “Hiawatha Community Hospital is here to serve this region the best we can in whatever capacity we can, now and in the future. We want to be a uniting force in this region. As we have shared throughout this campaign, our operations continue to improve.”

Broberg said the hospital is focusing on fundraising as they are currently doing our annual appeal for donations through the Foundation. For the first time, the Foundation is also hosting a New Year’s Eve event to raise additional funds.

“What is plan B? Right now, it is asking our team to focus on what we do best — provide compassionate care and focus on recruitment and retention of physicians, midlevels and staff,” he said.

In other election news, the city quarter-cent sales tax for recreation did pass and final vote on that was Yes-523 to No-412. As that sales tax was replacing the current post lantern tax that falls off in March, the city sales tax will remain at 9 percent when the recreation tax goes into effect in April.

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