Lease at last
Clinic lease talk occurs—with no resolution— towards end of over four hour long Saratoga Town council meeting
June 12, 2019
As has been the norm for recent meetings of the Saratoga Town Council, the discussion of the Corbett Medical Building lease between the Town of Saratoga and Health Management Services, LLC (HMS) was a main topic on June 4. It wasn’t until after two hours of public comment, a 45 minute executive session and the bulk of the committee reports that any talk about the lease actually took place.
The current lease between the town and HMS lists base obligations that include 24/7 on-call services and a doctor of medicine or osteopathy on staff. In his report to the council, Saratoga Care Center Administrator Mark Pesognelli informed council members that both he and Karl Rude, president of HMS, had entered into contract negotiations with Pat Connally, a doctor of osteopathy. According to Pesognelli, Connally would be available via telemedicine 2-3 days a week.
Following Pesognelli’s report, discussion between the town council and HMS began. Rude provided copies of the current lease with sections struck out, informing the council that they were “more rigid than I’m capable of meeting at this point in time.”
“With acknowledgment of that, those negotiating points are the things that I intend to bring to the council to say, while we continue to grow, while we continue to add services and bring professionals in new and innovative ways to the community, we would like your understanding and latitude and hope that we can find terms within those lined out sections that would create rigor for us to try and accomplish to the benefit of the community, but also allow latitude because of the difficulty that it is to build a business of this nature,” said Rude.
Rude added, due to recent events involving the current lease, he felt uncomfortable working in a contract in which he knew he was not meeting the terms of the lease, but that he was more than willing to engage in conversation with the council to find out what was expected of him and inform them what he felt he could accomplish.
“I’ll put it really plainly; I don’t feel like letting you off the hook. I also will acknowledge that what has happened in the last two weeks is wildly disappointing and, if I were in your position, I would feel the exact same way. I’m extremely sympathetic to your desire to get the heck out from under this thing,” said Councilmember Jon Nelson. “If we’re all in agreement that these are things that we are all striving to achieve ... I will make the commitment tonight that we work together as a committee and as a business organization and as a council to continue to do everything we can to meet those goals.”
As discussion continued, Councilmember Bob Keel raised his own concerns about the lease, informing Rude that he wasn’t looking at it in terms of healthcare, but that the town had a contract with a private company that could not enforce the obligations within that contract.
“I think I’m really in lockstep with that, Councilman Keel. I agree. I think we need clarity, we need something that’s specific. I love measurable goals. I want to be responsible to accomplish those things and I want to show you that we’re capable of doing it,” Rude said.
“One of my main concerns, too, is a lot of what Councilman Nelson said is you were part of the process of these terms and, whether or not the past council understood that these goals were a couple years out, I can’t speak to that. All I can look at right now is, I have terms of a contract that a private company can’t meet and now I’m being asked to adjust those so they can meet them,” said Keel.
When it was suggested by a member of the audience that the lease be amended only to include a date by which the obligations be met, Keel clarified Rude’s position. In regards to the terms of the lease, Rude was of the position that the expectations in the contract were no longer reasonable.
“Then why’d you sign it a year ago?” asked Nelson.
“Because I was working with a group of people who understood the commitment that we had to it,” replied Rude.
While no action was taken on the medical lease, discussion between the council and Rude left three probabilities; keep the lease with the knowledge that HMS was not fulfilling the base obligations, renegotiate the lease to provide what Rude felt were more realistic goals or the Town of Saratoga could sell the Corbett Medical Building and its assets and divest itself from healthcare altogether.
The next Saratoga Town Council meeting will be 6 p.m. on June 18 at Town Hall.