Archived Ants
« ISSUE #124: DefiANT - Last Stand at the Old Power House 6/7/2016 | Main | ISSUE #122: Aspen's pANTheon 4/18/2016 »

ISSUE #123: ANT Alert - AVH Board Election  4/28/2016

"More people vote in 'American Idol" than in any US election."   

-- Rush Limbaugh



Were you as surprised as I was to receive an envelope marked "BALLOT" in your mailbox this off-season?  With little to no warning of an upcoming election of any kind, it caught me completely off guard!  It seems that nearly 12,000 ballots were recently mailed out to active voters in the Aspen Valley Hospital district, asking voters to "Vote for not more than two Directors for Four-Year terms."  Not one word about "Aspen Valley Hospital," "hospital board" or anything like that.  Just a ballot with seven names and directions to pick two.  Oh, and the hospital's address on the return envelope.

A lot of Red Ant research has yielded very little information, aside from: 

  • The completed ballots must be received by 7pm on May 3. 
  • This election is by mail-in ballot only (no polling places). 
  • If you didn't receive your ballot, you are encouraged to contact the "designated election official," Amy Trubiroha Wells, at (970) 544-1261. 
  • This election is not being coordinated by the Pitkin County elections department, so if you wish to drop off your ballot, you must do so at the hospital, 401 Castle Creek Road.


Here's why this election is important: 

  • AVH is a non-profit hospital which means it is focused on community need vs making a profit.  When there is positive operating revenue (profit), it is re-invested into the organization.  Or at least it is supposed to be.
  • This special district of government operates as a "political subdivision" of the State of Colorado, not the City of Aspen, not Pitkin County.  AVH is its own separate entity - with an elected board and a requirement to hold open public meetings.
  • According to its most recent audit (2014), AVH had operating expenses of over $72 million in 2014.  That's a bigger operating budget than the city!
  • At the end of 2014, AVH had over $42 million in cash and short term investments on the books.
  • Our small rural hospital has become a significant financial concern!
  • AVH currently has no CEO; a search is underway.

A little history: In 1995, voters of the hospital district were asked to approve a 1.5 operational mill levy.  The request was for a five-year period and it passed.  Since then, every five years, the district has asked for a renewal, always at 1.5 mills, and each time the operational mill levy passed, in 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015.  In 2015, the renewal received 73% of the vote in favor.

Additionally, in 2010, voters were asked to approve General Obligation (GO) bonds for the purpose of expanding/renovating the hospital.  The request for $50 million was approved.  The 2010 GO bonds, in combination with pre-existing debt, represent a similar levy on property taxes as the operational mill levy, nearly 1.5 mills.  In total, the hospital had $60.02 million in outstanding bonded debt and another $647K in capital lease obligations at the end of 2014.

Check out your property taxes - right there in black and white are the "taxing districts," listed in what appears to be no particular order.  See "Aspen Valley Hospital"?  The mill levy is 2.819 mills.  FYI -- your money funds the hospital, more than it does the Pitkin County general fund (2.298 mills), more than the Pitkin County Library (1.359 mills), less than Open Space and Trails (3.750 mills) and less than Colorado Mountain College (3.897 mills).

These two mill levies combined are only about 8-9% of AVH's total annual income.  The lion's share of its income comes from patient revenue - over $72 million in 2014.  While a small percentage, it is still A LOT of money.  One can conclude that service costs would be almost 10% higher if the tax revenue was not part of the picture.  But more than anything, the relative (small) size of the property tax piece of AVH's total income speaks more to the growth of the hospital and the cost of medical care than it does to the magnitude of our personal contributions to the hospital's financial picture.

It is the AVH board of directors who oversee this money and have the fiduciary responsibility to manage it in accordance with the law, including accurately and completely informing the voters how the money is used.


What I have gleaned from the papers informs me that there are seven candidates for two open board seats on the five-member, volunteer Aspen Valley Hospital board.  One current board member, Dr. Barry Mink, is not running for re-election.  Current board member Dr. Mindy Nagle is running as an incumbent.  The other six candidates are:  Greg Balko, Peter G. Hersgberger, Rudi E. Scheidt, Jr., Joseph Nedlin, Eric Willsky and Michael Lyons.


The Red Ant is concerned about the inherent conflict of interest when employees of the Aspen Valley Hospital also serve as their own bosses on the hospital's board of directors.  For this reason, and particularly because AVH is at a critical phase of its multi-year, multi-million dollar expansion and is currently without a permanent CEO, there is absolutely no place for conflicts of interest, real or perceived.  I personally do not think that employees of Aspen Valley Hospital should even be allowed to run for such board positions.  It's the local government equivalent of city manager Steve Barwick and city attorney Jim True running for positions on city council.  It's just not right.  Besides, the optics are bad.


Four of the seven candidates (Dr. Greg Balko, Peter Hershberger RN, Dr. Mindy Nagle and Dr. Eric Willsky) are employees of AVH.  These are each dedicated professionals at the tops of their fields, not to mention valued community assets whose commitments to the health and well-being of this community are to be commended.  These are also very bright and talented people.  This opinion is in no way a judgment on their reputations or qualifications.  In Aspen, voters often vote for candidates who are "good guys," as if that should be a determining factor.  These four are all "good guys (and gals)."  But it is the opinion of The Red Ant that the hospital board positions not be held by hospital employees. 

For that reason alone, this leaves just three candidates for consideration:

  • Rudi E. Scheidt
  • Joseph Nedlin
  • Michael Lyons

This election snuck up on me too.  (Note to whoever is responsible for this election:  An important election should NEVER be sprung on the electorate.  The community often perceives the AVH board as a secretive entity that does much of its business behind closed doors.  This doesn't help dispel that perception!)  I will be looking at the three above and making my choices.


The opinions above are those of The Red Ant.  I have cut it down to three.  Pick two.

  • HERE is a document provided by AVH just before press time that contains the bios of all seven candidates.  Read it.  
  • HERE HERE HERE and HERE are candidate answers to survey questions as printed in the Aspen Daily News to-date.  There may be more coming.
  • HERE and HERE are 11th hour contributions from The Aspen Times
  • Remember, ballots must be RECEIVED by 7p on Tuesday, May 3

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend