PETROLIA — This town of 120 residents is in Allen County but it’s more of an enclave of Neosho County, members of Thrive Allen County learned Monday evening. The town is a mile from the Allen-Neosho counties line and about 4 miles from Chanute.
Thrive members, plus those of the Allen County Hospital Facilities Commission, converged on the town Monday night to discuss the recent decisions regarding building a new hospital for the county.
Hostess Sheila Schlotterbeck exemplified how detached from county happenings most in Petrolia were.
She wasn’t aware of the hospital project and indicated she doubted most others in the community were much interested.
“We shop in Chanute, go to the hospital there.” And, she said, most everyone in Petrolia gets their news from the Chanute Tribune, which hadn’t reported anything about Allen County Hospital.
“Our addresses are (rural) Chanute and our telephone prefix (431) is Chanute’s.”
But, when talk about the hospital project continued and turned to educating voters ahead of a referendum Nov. 2 to decide sales tax support, Schlotterbeck said she would be willing to help make others aware of the topic.
Mary Ann Arnott, chairman of the Hospital Facilities Commission, noted the hospital project was complex and a neighborhood get-together would be good to give residents information and provide an opportunity for questions.
Schlotterbeck told Arnott the best way to contact Petrolia residents would be by telephone or door to door, noting that most residents were private and not willing to congregate.
And, she said, “We have a lot of older people who don’t do e-mail.”
PETROLIA residents were told by David Toland, Thrive executive director, that the last substantial remodel of the hospital was in 1985.
Gas resident Don Burns noted that “Technology has improved a lot since then.”
Schlotterbeck was surprised when it was mentioned that ACH does not have digital mammography, which is available at Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute.
“How can you attract young professionals without up-to-date technology,” asked Iolan Randy Weber.
The hospital is on track to acquiring digital mammography, Joyce Heismeyer, chief executive officer of ACH, said this morning. “We should have it by the end of the year.”
Dr. Brian Wolfe noted the comments of a woman who recently gave birth at ACH but told Dr. Rebecca Lohman, who delivered the child, that she was going to Neosho County for the delivery of her next child — not because of unsatisfactory care and treatment at ACH, but because Allen County’s facilities were inferior to those in Chanute.
“A new hospital sends the message that we care about our community,” McIntosh said.
Jim Gilpin and Don Copley will lead the sales tax campaign.
“Our goal is to get the information to every voter,” Gilpin said. He said flyers, an insert in the Register and public meetings — anywhere, anytime and with any number of people — would be among tactics planned for the campaign, which will be financed with anticipated donations of $10,000.
As discussion continued, Larry Manes, Moran, informed those on hand that property taxes would not be part of any hospital funding, but that only a sales tax would be considered.
“It’s going to be a quarter- or half-cent sales tax, depending on what the city (of Iola) does. If part of Iola’s sales tax money is a part of the funding, the county will ask for a quarter cent. Either way it would be for 10 years,” noted County Commission chair Gary McIntosh.
County commissioners said last week they all supported construction of a new hospital, expected to cost about $30 million including startup capital, and would vote officially to start the project as soon as funding was decided.
TOLAND listened as Petrolia residents responded to his query of what Thrive might do to help their community.
Heather Cox noted that “There’s not much here for kids to do. There’s no park. All they can do is ride their bicycles around town or play video games at home. Even a swing set and a basketball goal would be good.”
Cox rattled off the ages of children of local families — it’s a close-knit community — and figured that 20 or more kids would benefit from a playground.
“I worry about the kids on their bicycles,” she added, noting that farm trucks and other traffic streams through Petrolia on a hard-surfaced road that changes from Plummer Street to Allen County’s 800 Street at the county line.
Toland told how Elsmore, a town of about 70, bought used playground equipment and “now has one of the nicest little parks in the county.”
Cox said she thought Petrolia residents would be interested in doing something similar, and said talk once surfaced about a making a vacant lot into a park.
Whatever might be done would have to be a neighborhood project, Schlotterbeck noted.
“Petrolia is just houses, no businesses or churches.”
“We would support your efforts,” Toland said.
“Thrive doesn’t lead (such a project), but if someone is willing to step up, we’ll certainly help out.”
Allen County also would help, added McIntosh.
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