Creation of a ‘Legacy Fund’ in Clinton County draws nearer

By Gary Huffenberger –

WILMINGTON — The starting amount for a planned Clinton County endowment fund apparently will include some money the county received from the sale of CMH properties, in addition to $2.9 million that the former county-owned hospital generated doing business.

During the Clinton County commissioners meeting on Monday, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed mentioned that the endowment fund’s start-up amount could be at least $10 million.

Firm numbers on “hospital dollars” that would be currently available for the endowment fund may be calculated as early as Wednesday during the commissioners next regularly scheduled session.

The talk about how much to initially place in the fund followed a breakthrough among the county commissioners on a sticking point — whether the three commissioners should necessarily occupy three seats on the fund’s five-person advisory board. Clinton County Commissioners President Patrick Haley had made it clear his vote on an agreement to transfer the money to the not-for-profit Clinton County Foundation (CCF) hinged on commissioners having three of the seats so that most advisory board members would be answerable to local voters.

Clinton County Commissioner Brenda Woods, who suggested Aug. 15 that county commissioners not necessarily occupy three advisory board seats, said Monday she is willing to compromise.

She said that’s because it is so important to move forward on an endowment fund so the money can “be earning the adequate interest that it should be earning.”

The contemplated transfer or donor agreement between the county and CCF would move the money to the CCF, which can invest more aggressively than counties are allowed.

Commissioners agreed Monday the two remaining seats on the advisory board will be appointed by the county commissioners. These appointees must physically reside in Clinton County and not simply work here or simply own a business here. The discussion consensus is for those appointees to be permitted to serve two three-year terms.

On Monday, Haley elaborated that his strong preference for commissioners to control the advisory board is based on input he has received from residents.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the community. It’s not solely my idea, but is a representation from what I’ve heard from people I talked with,” Haley said.

Later he added, “I am glad the Board of Clinton County Commissioners was able to reach a tentative agreement on the decision to establish a ‘legacy’ fund with the Clinton County Foundation during today’s meeting,” Haley said.

“The commissioners have worked on this issue for a long time, carefully considering the opinions of the county taxpayers, as well as, the opinion of the other commissioners, and remaining willing to compromise when necessary to reach this important agreement,” he said.

During the commissioners discussion, Haley said he expects there will be “major brick-and-mortar requests” made of the endowment fund in the years to come.

Commissioner Steed hopes the CCF’s administrative fee on the endowment fund will be lower than the 1 percent CCF previously quoted for a $3 million start-up amount.

There is expected to be more discussion at Wednesday’s commissioners session on the creation of an endowment fund.

The $2.9 million generated from the hospital’s business operations must be spent on the health, safety and wellness of Clinton County and its people, whereas the money from the sale of the hospital facilities, real estate and equipment faced no such restriction.

In round numbers, commissioners previously have spent hospital sale proceeds on the following: just under $9.5 million on outstanding county debt; $6.3 million in renovations to the county courthouse, county prosecutor’s building (former post office) and the county veterans service commission building (former county jail); $5.2 million on MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System) radio towers with digital communication for first responders and public safety providers; and $400,000 for a major software project for county government operations.

Those reportedly are the major expenditures of available hospital sale money that have been made up to this point in time.

A big chunk of the $82 million purchase price went toward the hospital’s bond debt, which was paid on the day of the sale: approximately $37.5 million.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.