Independence City Commission rejects St. John proposal, opens future talks to area medical providers


INDEPENDENCE — Healthcare coverage is now wide open for the Independence community after Independence city commissioners, in an agonizing 90 minute meeting on Friday, rejected a plan by a Tulsa-based health system to assume some of Mercy Hospital’s services in 2016.

The 2-1 decision to reject a three-year plan by St. John Health System was followed by the commission’s unanimous decision to open negotiations with interested medical providers — including Wilson County Medical Center in Neodesha, Neosho Regional Medical Center in Chanute, Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, Labette Health in Parsons and even St. John Health System — to open an urgent care or emergency department in Independence.

However, commissioners admitted that prospects would be slim that St. John Health System would be willing to entertain another proposal for Independence healthcare coverage.

Commissioners also emphasized they are fighting the clock because Mercy Hospital has previously indicated it would cease all clinics and services in Independence by Dec. 31. Mercy Hospital officials in early September indicated they would negotiate solely with St. John Health System, which owns Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville, for an assumption of Mercy’s clinics and related services in 2016. This would include the Cancer Center of Kansas, the Mercy Pharmacy, the Mercy Health For Life, and primary care clinics in Independence and Cherryvale. At the time Mercy made its announcement, the city commission voted to negotiate with Mercy and St. John Health System with the City’s offer of $3 million as an economic development incentive thrust into the mix.

It’s not yet known how Mercy will respond to the city commission’s decision or if the Missouri-based Catholic charity will stay firm with its timeline to close remaining services by the end of the year. A call to a Mercy spokesperson was not returned by the time of this posting on Friday afternoon.

Friday’s special city commission meeting was the first time the commission was able to publicly discuss any aspect of the negotiations between the commission, Mercy and St. John. Commissioners did reveal some details of those negotiations, including:

• Mercy Hospital dictated the conditions of the negotiations, including the provision that Mercy negotiate with only one party, which was St. John Health System.

• Mercy dictated that the negotiations be held confidentially. Discussions at city commission meetings were held in executive session, which are closed to the public and press.

The city commission picked a healthcare negotiation committee to handle those discussions not only with St. John but in previous discussions between Mercy and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center (the Mercy-CRMC talks broke off in early September, which caused Mercy to announce it would close its hospital and emergency department in October). Those committee members included city manager Micky Webb, city commissioner Fred Meier, city attorney Jeff Chubb and Mercy Hospital board chairman Jim Kelly.

• St. John, which operates primary care clinics in Coffeyville and Caney, offered to assume some of Mercy’s medical services in 2016, including operation of primary care clinics, Mercy Health for Life, the Mercy Pharmacy, and the Cancer Center of Kansas. St. John Health System also planned to operate an expanded urgent care but not an emergency department in the short term. A long-term vision, but not a contractual obligation, called for creation of an emergency department.

• St. John’s proposal was on a three-year term. The corporation asked the City of Independence to guarantee the company’s profit by assuming an annual loss of no more than $750,000 each year for three years. That would mean St. John would receive $2,250,000 in taxpayer funds over a three-year period. It was not known if St. John would accept the $3 million economic development offer and apply it to that yearly profit guarantee or if it would have been in addition to the $2,250,000 it was seeking.

While St. John was in discussions with Mercy and the City of Independence, Labette Health of Parsons also presented a preliminary proposal to the City of Independence to establish an emergency department in Independence. No action was taken on the Labette Health proposal.

Labette Health already operates an urgent care center in Independence and has offices for its visiting physicians from Parsons. Labette Health also operates a primary care clinic in Cherryvale.

However, Friday’s meeting was not held to decide the better of two different proposals. Because the city commission had previously announced it would negotiate a healthcare plan for the community, the meeting was held to decide solely whether to accept or reject the St. John plan.

For Commissioner Gary Hogsett, who voted against the St. John proposal, the question of whether to accept Oklahoma-based charity’s proposal was an issue of fairness. He said St. John made an unacceptable proposal by requiring city taxpayers to pay $750,000 per year for three years to guarantee its profits. He reminded audience members and fellow commissioners and city staff that St. John Health System is owned by Ascension, which is the world’s largest Catholic medical charity.

“I cannot vote to allow taxpayers to cover the losses for a billion dollar corporation,” said Hogsett.

Hogsett said he understands that most business ventures go through losses in their first years of operation. However, he said other local medical providers have not stretched out their hands to seek taxpayers’ money. He cited several medical providers, including a local dentist, chiropractor, a family practice physician, and an optometrist who dispense healthcare without asking for a single penny from city coffers.

Mayor Leonhard Caflisch, who joined Hogsett in rejecting the St. John plan, said he had concerns with the lack of local input in the St. John plan and in the negotiations in general. He said St. John, by virtue of being owned by a non-profit corporation that is based in St. Louis, Mo., would likely not include the concerns of local citizens in its operations in Independence. He said he felt the future needs of the Independence community would best be handled by an organization that allows for local decision making.

“The decisions of St. John will be made by Ascension,” said Caflisch. “I feel this is a matter where we as a community need to control our destiny. I don’t see that in the St. John proposal.”

Casting the lone vote in favor of the St. John plan was Commissioner Fred Meier, who was on the city’s negotiation team. Meier said the St. John proposal would have provided the community with basic medical services while also assuming some of the services that Mercy patients and customers have been accustomed to using, such as the Mercy Pharmacy and the Mercy Health for Life.

However, Meier said that he, too, had problems with St. John’s requirement that the City of Independence write off the company’s losses by contributing up to $750,000 each for three years.

The fact that a major medical provider like St. John sees a need to get public dollars into the mix only verifies that the future healthcare choices for the community will be dictated by the need for taxpayer money, Meier said.

“To be honest, healthcare in Independence will not be cheap,” he said. “For us to have quality healthcare, we are going to have to spend money.”

Following the commission’s rejection of the St. John plan, commissioners entered into a lengthy discussion about how to proceed. All three commissioners had separate visions. Meier proposed that the commission adopt the proposal put forward by Labette Health at a special meeting last week. However, Hogsett said he was not willing to address the Labette Health proposal without fully studying the proposal. He also said he believed the commission should avail themselves to other medical providers who have expressed an interest in the Independence market.

“I think we need to look at our neighbors and get them involved in the process,” said Hogsett.

Hogsett said Coffeyville Regional Medical Center had reached out to him in recent weeks about the possibility of healthcare coverage for Independence. Wilson Medical Center in Neodesha also has made a similar inquiry, and Labette Health has made a proposal to the commission at a previous meeting.

Meanwhile, Caflisch said he was looking for a medical provider that could bring an emergency department, which is one of the priorities set forth by the commission when Mercy Hospital announced its closure plans in early September. He also said he believed opening talks with other medical providers would free the City of the constraints that Mercy Hospital had placed on the negotiations with a sole provider (St. John Health System), which Mercy Hospital picked because of its Catholic affiliation.

In the end, Hogsett and Caflisch were adamant that future discussions involve area medical providers. Meier expressed reluctance in the process, saying it could take considerable time to make a decision when reviewing the proposals.

“Voting in favor of this is going against my better judgment . . . but I feel we are a team,” he said.

Commissioners directed city staff to notify St. John of the vote to reject their plan and also extend an opening to area medical providers to discuss healthcare plans for Independence.

Prior to the commission’s discussions and votes, they heard concerns from several Independence residents. Many of the residents spoke of the need to continue the Cancer Center of Kansas, which is located in a Mercy facility.

Other residents spoke of the need to have public input in the discussions.

Brian Williams, Labette Health chief executive officer, also spoke briefly about the Parsons-based hospital and its plans for Independence.

After the meeting, Williams said that as part of the Labette Health proposal, Labette Health would guarantee a placement of an Independence resident on its governance board to assure local input in its decisions.

No persons from St. John Health System or Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville spoke at Friday’s meeting.

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Hospital merger discussions cease


A major blow was dealt to the Independence community — and to the future of medical coverage in Montgomery County — on Wednesday when officials with Mercy Hospital and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center ended discussions toward a possible affiliation.

The lack of resolution toward an affiliation between the two hospitals means Independence will likely be devoid of hospital and emergency room coverage in the near future. Coffeyville Regional Medical Center will continue to serve its patients and provide medical coverage to its customer base in southeast Kansas.

Mercy Hospital has previously stated that it would end its local business operations by Oct. 10. However, Joanne Smith, Mercy spokesperson, said Mercy officials will unveil a schedule of phased-out services this week.

Mercy has several medical properties within the Independence and Cherryvale communities, including medical clinics in both towns; Mercy Health For Life, a physical fitness and physical therapy center; a local hospital, which has downsized its services in recent months due to the departure of several physicians; and medical clinics in Independence and Cherryvale. At presstime, it was unknown which of those properties would be closed.

In April 2014, Mercy Hospital announced it would enter into a “discernment” process whereby it would examine its future in Montgomery County. It was later revealed that the Sisters of Mercy, the parent company of Mercy Hospital, would divest itself of its properties in southeast Kansas, including Independence and Fort Scott.

Mercy had discussions with a fellow Catholic charity, St. John Health System of Oklahoma. However, those discussions ended without a resolution.

Mercy then entered into discussions with Coffeyville Regional Medical Center earlier this year concerning a possible affiliation or partnership. After several months of talks, both entities signed a letter of understanding, which is a preliminary agreement before the performance of due diligence, announcing plans to consolidate services while leaving some basic medical services in Independence. The City of Independence entered the negotiations by agreeing to provide $3 million in bonds as an incentive to retain basic medical services in the community under the CRMC umbrella.

However, except for the announcement of a letter of understanding between the two hospitals and the agreement from the City of Independence would provide a $3 million incentive in those negotiations, discussions between CRMC and Mercy were confidential. Officials from both hospitals as well as the City of Independence could not comment publicly about the status or state of those negotiations. It’s not known why the discussions between the two entities ended this week or what the key issues were that kept the two groups from forming an affiliation.

Wednesday’s announcement concludes the attempt by both hospitals to reach some type of long-term accord.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to bring stability and security to the future of health services in Independence,” said Kim Day, Mercy chief executive officer. “Despite the tremendous commitment of both Mercy and CRMC over many months, unfortunately we are unable to achieve this goal.”

Mark Woodring, CRMC chief executive officer, said it was disappointing that a final definitive agreement could not be reached between the two hospitals. However, he said CRMC remained “unequivocally committed” toward building a rural health delivery model for Montgomery County.

“We remain undeterred, optimistic and passionate in our mission to provide vital health care services to our region,” said Woodring. “CRMC will continue to strengthen our organization as we work together with our communities to overcome the economic, political and regulatory headwinds facing rural health care providers across the country today.”

Jim Kelly, who serves as chairman of the Mercy Hospital board of directors, admitted to being disappointed that the affiliation discussions with CRMC did not end with an agreement. However, he said he appreciated the amount of time and depth of study that CRMC officials put into those discussions.

“This is not an easy road for us now,” he said. “However, it’s not a road that we quit on.”

City reaction

City manager Micky Webb said the announcement of the two hospitals’ inability to reach an affiliation resolution was bad news for Independence. However, he said that he was conferring with several other medical entities in the region to discuss the situation and get their perspective on possible medical coverage in Independence.

“All I can say is there is some hope,” he said of prospects of another medical provider establishing a presence in Independence. “We have conference calls scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.”

Webb would not provide the names of those entities, nor could he comment on the Mercy-CRMC affiliation discussions because of a confidentiality agreement.

He also said he was conferring with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran during the senator’s stop in Independence on Wednesday.

“I’m a bit more hopeful today (Wednesday) than I was when I was told of the affiliation discussions ending on Tuesday,” said Webb. “Regardless, it’s a very difficult situation for Independence.”

Webb also said the $3 million in bonds that had been promised for the Mercy-CRMC affiliation would not be used until an agreement could be reached with another medical provider that might have an interest in locating to Independence.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Independence is the 37th largest town in Kansas in terms of population (9,483). According to the Kansas Hospital Association, several larger towns, such as Haysville, Merriam and Lansing, do not have hospitals. However, those communities are located in suburban areas where access to medical care is readily available.

When the Sisters of Mercy close its hospitals doors in Independence, the community will carry the status of being the largest “rural” town in Kansas without hospital coverage.

Congressional reaction

Speaking at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, who has advocated the need for more medical access in rural communities, bemoaned the announcement that CRMC and Mercy had discontinued affiliation talks. He said Independence was far too strong of a community to be without medical coverage.

However, he insists that finding a solution to a complicated problem as medical care will require efforts from all people — including himself. He said he intended to focus on some of the Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement problems that have plagued medical centers and clinics across the nation. Those reimbursement issues have been a major point of contention among hospital administrators for years.

The fact that the Sisters of Mercy has chosen to remove Mercy Hospital Independence, combined with the failure of Mercy and CRMC to reach an affiliation pact, is not a signal that a solution can’t be found, Moran said. Even though the state of medical care is confronted with numerous challenges, rural towns like Independence need and must rely on a strong medical community.

“That hospital matters greatly to the future of this community,” he said of Mercy Hospital. “It’s nothing where you just shrug your shoulders and say ‘It won’t work any more.’ In my view, it’s a situation where you just roll up your shirt sleeves and work to find a solution.”

Moran, who has visited all 127 hospitals in Kansas during his years in U.S. Congress, said many of the problems confronting all hospitals — rural or urban — were similar. However, rural hospitals, by their very nature, tend to have a more difficult time recruiting physicians and their families to their communities, which makes the challenges for Independence even more difficult.

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CRMC agrees to buy Mercy Hospital of Independence


The face of health care in Montgomery County changed dramatically Thursday when Coffeyville Regional Medical Center agreed to buy Mercy Hospital of Independence.

Additionally, CRMC will retain various health-care services in Independence, bolstered by the issuance of $3 million in bonds from the City of Independence.

In a special meeting Thursday evening, Coffeyville Regional Medical Center’s board of directors voted to sign a letter of intent for acquisition of Mercy Hospital Independence. The signing of this letter culminates several months of discussions between the two organizations. The CRMC board also voted to accept a proposal from the City of Independence, whereby the City would issue $3 million in bonds to retain some health-care services in Independence under the CRMC umbrella. That letter was also signed by the Independence City Commission on Thursday.

Mark Woodring, CRMC’s chief executive officer, said his board’s vote Thursday demonstrates their foresight and strong support of the affiliation, and he was appreciative of the leadership and commitment of the City of Independence to preserve essential services for the residents of Independence.

“This is truly a special moment in time for all of us as we work together to position our organizations and communities for the future of medicine,” Woodring said. “We are excited to build a rural health delivery model in Montgomery County that ensures our patients and families will have continued access to high-quality services for many years to come.”

Kim Day, interim leader for Mercy Independence, the letter of intent is an “agreement in principle, subject to final approvals” and outlines the transfer of assets of Mercy Hospital Independence to CRMC. The letter addresses governance of the combined entity and sets the stage for making decisions on important operational considerations, such as which health services will be retained on the Independence campus and how co-worker payroll and benefits will be handled.

“This is the starting place,” Day said. “From here, the real work begins to prepare a definitive agreement, operationalize the plan and create a transition that is as smooth as possible for our patients, co-workers, providers and communities.”

While signing the letter of intent is the first step in the affiliation process, parties expect the transaction to move along fairly quickly, with completion anticipated this fall.

The decision by CRMC to purchase Mercy’s assets — and take advantage of the City of Independence’s $3 million financial offer — is in stark contrast to the atmosphere as little as three weeks ago, when it appeared that negotiations between the two hospitals had sputtered. The City of Independence was not part of those negotiations because Mercy Hospital operates as a private, charity-based institution. However, the City of Independence was summoned to re-energize those discussions with the offer to issue bonds, which will be paid back through additional taxation over an extended period of time. The City’s stipulation was that a degree of health-care services would be retained in Independence, including emergency or immediate care, physicians in clinics, and a host of other medical activities.

What is missing from the acquisition is Mercy’s admissions-based hospital. Jim Kelly, who serves on the Mercy Hospital board of directors, said it was highly unlikely that CRMC would retain the hospital portion of Mercy because of economics and demand.

“I simply don’t see having two admissions-based hospital campuses open in Montgomery County,” he said on Friday. “However, I think Independence can keep many of the other medical activities, such as physician clinics, out-patient surgeries, diagnostic and radiology, and cancer treatment.”

Kelly said details that are yet to be worked out between the two hospitals will likely be handled through Day and Woodring, who will report to their respective boards.

The letter of intent signed by the City of Independence on Thursday indicates that the City will subsidize the following services:

• hiring and/or retention of physicians in the “critical areas necessary to maintain appropriate health-care standards in Independence,”

• provision of emergency/immediate care services at the Mercy facility,

• upgrade, implement and maintain an appropriate electronic medical records and patient portal system for the combined facilities.

The letter also said that should CRMC no longer provide health care services in Independence (under an agreed-to acquisition of Mercy), then the assets of Mercy facility would be transferred to the City of Independence.

City manager Micky Webb said CRMC’s formal acceptance of a letter of intent with the City of Independence signals that CRMC is interested in health care in Independence.

“This letter of intent is by no means the final step. This is merely an expression of how the City will use those bonds,” he said. “It merely gets us closer to the finer details.”

How did Mercy Hospital get to the point where the City of Independence was needed to pump money into the negotiations with CRMC? In 2014, Mercy Hospital began a “discernment” process that examined its future role in Independence. It was never revealed at that time if the Sisters of Mercy Health System, which owns Mercy Hospital in Independence and Fort Scott, would shutter its two Kansas campuses. Mercy Hospital in Independence sought discussions with other fellow Catholic-related medical charities, but none of those discussions bore any fruit.

Three months ago, discussions between CRMC and Mercy Hospital began (CRMC is not affiliated with any religious charity and is a stand-alone, private corporation). In the past month, those discussions appear to have stalled, as indicated by the desire of Mercy Hospital to have the local city government enter those discussions. Two weeks ago, the Independence City Commission agreed to offer $3 million in bonds as a possible financial incentive.

The discussions between CRMC and Mercy Hospital have entirely been behind closed doors, and hospitals officials have refused to divulge details, citing confidentiality agreements between the two institutions.

However, the signing of the letter of intent between the City of Independence and CRMC on Thursday did provide some insight the first public disclosure of those discussions.

The letter of intent indicated that CRMC intends to acquire Mercy Hospital and provide “certain health-care services . . . to benefit the Corporation (CRMC) and the citizens of the City of Independence, provided that the City of Independence provides certain financial incentives . . . ”

This dispelled the prevailing belief that the two institutions were forming an alliance or merger. Instead, the letter of intent indicates that CRMC intends to buy Mercy Hospital and its local assets.

The letter of intent also verified something that had previously only been a rumor: that Mercy intends to cease its activities in Independence. Mercy officials have never publicly stated Sisters of Mercy Health System’s future plans in Independence, only that there were no other plans if the CRMC-Mercy discussions failed.

“There is no plan B,” Mercy’s interim chief executive officer Kim Day said in a public meeting in May.

The letter of intent signed between CRMC and Mercy Hospital was unavailable to the press today because of confidentiality pertaining to employment of personnel in both hospitals.

What are general obligation bonds? General obligation bonds often are used by local governments as an incentive for industries and businesses to expand. Those bonds, which essentially put the local city government in a debt situation, are paid back through additional taxation over a specified period of time. The disclosure of how those bonds specifically would be used will be heard when the Independence City Commission holds public hearings at a later meeting.

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Committee to represent City of Independence in hospital merger talks

INDEPENDENCE — Independence city commissioners on Monday named four people to serve as a committee to represent the city’s interests in the merger discussions between Mercy Hospital and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.

In a brief special meeting Monday, commissioners voted unanimously to appoint city manager Micky Webb, city attorney Jeff Chubb and city commissioner Fred Meier to serve on a five-member committee. Also representing the city on the committee will be Terry Deschaine, a hospital consultant from Wellington, Kan. A representative of the Forbes Law Firm of Topeka, which has a previous history in representing hospital negotiations, will be consulted and provide advice to the committee as needed during the negotiation process.

Commissioner Gary Hogsett said the committee would serve solely to “look after the bests interests of Independence” as the two hospitals discussion plans for a merger.

The five-member committee has little time to get prepared for its duties. The committee is expected to meet Tuesday afternoon in a round of negotiations between CRMC and Mercy Hospital.

Webb said the committee was established after the City of Independence put a monetary interest in the negotiations. At a special meeting last Thursday, commissioners voted unanimously to signal its intent to be in the negotiations by agreeing to issue $3 million in bonds — either as Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) or General Obligation Bonds (GOBs) — for the purpose of retaining health care services in Independence. That decision marked the first time that the negotiation process involved a local government entity. Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the negotiations have solely been between the two hospitals, both of which are private businesses.

The commission agreed to throw itself in the negotiations after talks between the two hospitals appeared to have stalled. The city commission interjected itself into the process in hopes that the assurance of $3 million in bonds would re-energize those discussions. Details of those negotiations have not been made public.

“We’re obviously the stepchild in this process,” said Mayor Leonhard Caflisch, referring to the previous lack of city input in the hospital merger discussions.

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Coffeyville woman is suspect in attempt murder

Coffeyville police have arrested 27-year-old Tenisha Marie Thomas for attempted second degree murder stemming from a shooting incident. Officers were called to 706 W. North Street at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 3, for a report of shots fired.

Upon arrival, officers discovered 41-year-old Scott R. Willis, who resides in Coffeyville, had been shot once in the head. Willis had already left the scene en route to Coffeyville Regional Medical Center. Thomas, also of Coffeyville, was
located near the crime scene and transported to the Montgomery County Department of Corrections.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information on this case, or who may have witnessed the crime, is encouraged to contact Detective Lucas Vargas at 620-252-6010 or the Coffeyville Police Department at 620-252-6160. Individuals
wishing to remain anonymous may provide information to the Crime Tip Hotline at 620-252-6133.

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• Water is slowly being released into the city’s water distribution system. However, depending upon where you live in Caney, the water pressure will vary. That varied pressure will persist until the entire water distribution system has been pressurized and the water tower is full.

• Because the water distribution system has been shut down, air remains with the lines. City crews will go through the community to open various fire hydrants in order to release air and sediment. Do not be alarmed when seeing water being flushed from the fire hydrants. Relieving the system of air will actually speed up the amount of time for water to flow into residential and commercial taps.

• Even though water will be coming back into residential and commercial taps, a boil advisory remains in effect until further notice. Water rationing also is encouraged, meaning residents should prohibit the watering of lawns and outdoor vegetation.

• Clean, potable water is available to all residents at a tanker parked across the street from Caney City Hall. The water has been made available by the City of Coffeyville. Residents are encouraged to bring containers to fill. The tanker will be available through the duration of the Caney water situation.

• The Caney City Pool is closed today (July 4th). Whether the pool will be open tomorrow or thereafter will be a day to day decision until the water situation is rectified. Check the City of Caney website at for more details about pool hours.

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Water boil advisory issued for City of Caney

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a boil water advisory for water customers of the City of Caney. KDHE officials issued the advisory because of a loss of pressure. Failure to maintain adequate pressure may result in a loss of chlorine residuals and bacterial contamination.

The advisory took effect at 8 p.m., tonight (Thursday, July 2) and will remain in effect until pressure is restored and all other conditions which place the system at risk of contamination are deemed by KDHE officials to be adequately resolved.

• Customers should observe the following precautions until further notice:

• Boil water for one minute prior to drinking or food preparation, or use bottled water.

• Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker.

• Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.

• Water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians.

• If your tap water appears dirty, flush the water lines by letting the water run until it clears.

Public water suppliers in Kansas take all measures necessary to notify customers quickly after a system failure. Regardless of whether it’s the supplier or KDHE that announces a boil water advisory, KDHE will issue the rescind order following testing at a certified laboratory.

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City of Independence to provide negotiation power in Mercy/CRMC merger talks

INDEPENDENCE — The City of Independence now has a stake in the merger negotiations between Mercy Hospital and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center.

The two Montgomery County-based hospitals have been negotiating an alliance or merger for several months. However, hospitals officials have indicated those negotiations have slowed lately as the two sides determine how to eliminate a financial gap that keeps the two hospitals from agreeing to a merger.

Details of the negotiations remain confidential due to a confidentiality clause signed by both hospitals.

However, city commissioners on Wednesday night voted unanimously to issue a letter of understanding that would allow the City of Independence to issue $3 million in bonds — either through industrial revenue bonds (knowns as IRBs) or general obligation bonds (known as GOBs) — to “retain health-care services in Independence.”

The commission met with city manager Micky Webb, assistant city manager Kelly Passauer and attorney Tim Emert (filling in for city attorney Jeff Chubb) in an executive session for 45 minutes. Also included the executive session was Jim Kelly of Independence, who serves as chairman of the Mercy Hospital board of directors. After the executive session, which is closed to the press and public, commissioners agreed to sign the letter of understanding that would permit the City of Independence to use the $3 million in bonds as negotiation leverage on behalf of Mercy Hospital.

“This merely allows us to have skin in the game,” said commissioner Fred Meier after the meeting regarding the letter of intent. “Before tonight, we didn’t have any negotiation power. This is merely the first step in the process.”

At a community meeting in May, interim Mercy chief executive officer Kim Day said failure to reach a merger agreement with CRMC would cause Mercy Hospital to close its doors in Independence.

“There is no plan B,” he said at that meeting.

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Caney mayor walks out of council meeting; status of resignation unknown

By Rudy Taylor

CANEY — Caney Mayor Carol McClure walked out of the city council meeting Monday night after taking part in a 15-minute executive session that apparently sparked heated emotions.

McClure gave no explanation for her exit, although council members confirmed that she told them she was resigning.

Later in the meeting, council member Dan Vernon, while speaking about another matter, referred to McClure as “the former mayor.”

Since she did not present a formal resignation, the remainder of the meeting was led by councilor Chad Bradford in his role as president of the council.

After the meeting, Bradford said he was not sure where the matter stood. “All I know is she was upset and she left the building,” said Bradford.

The issue that led up to the executive session was another resignation — that of Police Chief Jimmy Rogers.

At the end of his regular report at the meeting, Rogers said he was tendering his 30-day notice of resignation. “I can’t work under these circumstances,” said Rogers, and he referred to a personnel issue that involved his assistant chief, Ron Wade, who said he, too, was on the verge of leaving.

What triggered all the emotions was a letter sent to Wade from Mayor McClure requiring him to see a doctor and get a “fitness for duty evaluation.”

Wade said he was surprised to get it, and wanted to know if the council was aware of it.

There were no comments from any council members, but Mayor McClure acknowledged that, indeed, she sent the letter.

“It asks him to take a medical evaluation, not a psychological evaluation,” she said. “If he does that, he can continue working.”

McClure said the letter came after actions and comments allegedly made by Wade in a recent executive session meeting of the council.

Wade responded, “I need to know if the council wants me to come to work tomorrow. I will not sign the letter because it says things that are not true.”

Rogers commented, “I think you (the city council) may be walking into a civil rights violation here.”

The council then went into executive session to discuss non-elected personnel, with all council members, the mayor, the city clerk, police chief and assistant police in attendance.

Before that session could end, McClure emerged by herself, visibly shaken, took all her papers and purse, and headed out the door.

When the council members came back in, Bradford sat at the head of the table and the council voted to go back into executive session for 15 minutes to discuss non-elected personnel.

When they returned, a motion was made confirming that Assistant Police Ron Wade should continue working in his job.

After that, Bradford presided over routine reports and issues, never mentioning the status of the mayor’s position.

Finally, as Bradford prepared to adjourn the meeting, a member the audience asked for an explanation of what had transpired.

“I’m just doing the work of the president of the council,” said Bradford.

He later told the Montgomery County Chronicle that he still was not sure whether Carol McClure was coming back as mayor.

Also after the meeting, Chief Rogers told the Montgomery County Chronicle that he would give it “another couple of weeks to see if things can get worked out.”

Bradford also commented that he hoped both Rogers and Wade would stay on.

“We have a really good police department right now,” he said.

Under usual protocol, when a mayor or council member resigns, it is done in writing to the council which then acts to accept or reject it.

While talking informally with others after the meeting, Wade said he received a text from the mayor’s son, Clint McClure, saying he was quitting his job as a Caney Police Officer and EMT.

Carol McClure, who was re-elected to a two-year term in April, still has not made a public comment about the meeting or whether she was resigning as mayor.

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Bonds set against trio involved in chase, police shootings, manhunt

Montgomery County Chronicle

INDEPENDENCE — Three people involved in high-speed chase in Oklahoma that included the wounding of an Oologah, Okla., police officer and a shootout with a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department deputy on May 28-29 appeared in Montgomery County District Court on Monday.

Alejandro Garcia, Cesar Rios and Roxanne Mendoza are alleged to have instigated a high-speed chase in Oklahoma that evolved into a shooting of a police officer from Oologah, Okla., on May 28. Rios and Mendoza were arrested after bailing from their vehicle when their car was disabled with tire spikes south of Coffeyville.

Garcia fled the scene and is alleged to have carjacked a vehicle. He ultimately took that vehicle — and the driver who owned it — to Liberty where the vehicle stopped at the driveway of a private residence north of the All Saints Cemetery. After exiting that carjacked vehicle, Garcia got into a shootout with Michael Grimes, a member of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. Grimes was not injured in the shooting; however, the individual who owner of the carjacked vehicle, David Henderson, sustained a bullet wound to the neck. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Garcia then broke into a private residence, where he was ultimately discovered hiding in a closet on the morning of May 29. The search for Garcia included dozens of law enforcement officers from multiple counties, cities and two states.

Appearing separately in front of Judge Jeff Gossard on Monday, Mendoza and and Rios were each charged with the same crimes:

• interference with law enforcement, felony obstruction of resisting arrest; and

• criminal possession of a weapon by a felon.

Greg Benefiel, a prosecuting attorney with the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office, recommended that bond against Mendoza be set at $500,000. Bond for Rios was set at $1 million based on a previous drug charge in Jackson County, Mo., and on the belief that Rios fired the weapon that injured the Oologah police officer in Oklahoma.

Rios shook his head when he heard Benefiel reveal the allegation that Rios fired the shot against the Oologah police officer.

According to court records, Rios was arrested in February 2013 in Kansas City, Mo., on two counts: possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia.

Benefiel also said the State of Oklahoma intends to file charges against Rios and Mendoza, both of whom are from Kansas City, Mo., based on the police chase and officer shooting in Oklahoma.

Garcia, whose hometown is unknown, faces four counts, including:

• interference with law enforcement, felony obstruction of resisting arrest; and
• burglary,

• criminal damage to property, and

• attempted capital murder against a law enforcement officer.

Garcia indicated he could speak very little English, a fact that was verified by Benefiel, who spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Gossard said a language interpreter will be provided for Garcia in all future hearings.

Because of the severity of the crimes against Garcia, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office will be the lead prosecutor in the case against Garcia but not Rios and Mendoza. Garcia’s bond was set at $2 million. Gossard told Garcia that the “very serious charges” against him were the reason for the $2 million bond. He also told Garcia that other charges were pending in Oklahoma.

Monday’s hearings against the three individuals were brief and lasted only a matter of minutes. All three were return to Montgomery County District Court with their court-appointed attorneys on Thursday, June 25 for the first formal appearances.

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