Industrial Development Authority gives nod to Saint Francis bonds

Sunday, February 24, 2013
Construction continues on the south side of Saint Francis Medical Center Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

The board of directors of the Industrial Development Authority of Cape Girardeau County on Friday approved an application by Saint Francis Medical Center for up to approximately $215 million in tax-exempt development bonds to help fund new construction and refinance debt.

Tony Balsano, Saint Francis Medical Center vice president of finance, Marilyn Curtis, vice president of professional services, and David Prather, controller, presented the application to the board and emphasized the economic benefits to the community.

Saint Francis broke ground in November on a $127 million expansion and renovation project, with the intention to "enhance facilities, services and systems to bring best-in-class health care to the people of Missouri and beyond," according to a December news release.

The project, which includes a five-story medical tower and plans to upgrade existing facilities, is slated for completion in 2016. It will employ 400 to 450 workers, adding as much as $35 million to $40 million in payroll. At peak times, about 200 people will be at work on the site, Curtis said.

Curtis said Saint Francis conservatively estimates that at least 33 long-term positions will be created upon completion.

Among improvements beyond existing facilities, all patient rooms will be private and there will be new private neonatal intensive-care-unit rooms in which families can stay. Curtis and Balsano said that design decisions were made in consideration of research and quality control initiatives to improve confidentiality, infection control and overall patient health outcomes.

Babies get well faster when mothers and fathers can stay close by, Curtis said.

The project also will increase patient beds from 280 to 320 in an effort to accommodate the retiring baby boomer generation, Balsano said.

"The system is going to be swamped," Balsano said.

According to AARP, for the next 18 years, boomers in the United States will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day.

Curtis said that the medical center serves a population of more than 650,000 people in a five-state area.

The bonds approved will finance about $75 million of the construction. Saint Francis financial officers also will have the option of refinancing about $138.5 million in existing debt, but they said they were undecided about whether to do that as of Friday. The medical center has about $300 million in cash on its balance sheet, they said.

The IDA is a quasi-public not-for-profit corporation that was established in 1979 and is "the single largest governmental income-producing entity in the history of Cape Girardeau County, second only to the county government itself," according to the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce website. The IDA may issue bonds for the purpose of acquiring land, constructing buildings and facilities or purchasing equipment at a borrowing cost that is often below the cost of conventional financing, according to application guidelines. In making a decision, the IDA considers the applicant's financial responsibility, the type of business activity, the marketing of the bonds and the benefits to the county.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3646

1267 N. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

211 Saint Francis Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO.

Map of pertinent addresses

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