Updated at 8:35 p.m. April 30, 2015

A registered nurse on the Grossmont Healthcare District Board of Directors is questioning the financial health of construction projects under Proposition G, calling for a sudden halt to them.

Grossmont Healthcare District board member Betty Stieringer. Image via grossmonthealthcare.org

Betty Stieringer, elected to the board in 2012, is worried about the program running out of money from the $247 million bond.

In a resolution to be considered at Monday morning’s board meeting, Stieringer calls on district CEO Barry Jantz to “partially terminate … any portion” of construction projects that can be halted.

Any work that can’t be stopped at the La Mesa hospital would be allowed to continue to completion. Some buildings with work to do might be “shelled,” or covered.

Among projects possibly at risk are the 71,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular Center, an 18,400-square-foot Central Energy Plant and improvements to the existing East Tower building, which dates to 1974.

“The project that would clearly be at risk with passage of the proposed resolution is the Surgery Floor Build-Out of the new Heart and Vascular Center,” district CEO Barry Jantz told Times of San Diego. He said the project is still left to bid.

“The bulk of our recent bond sale of $24 million in new funds will be used for the district’s portion of that work,” he said. “Sharp committed as part of last year’s lease extension to about $30 million for their portion of the work, about 50 percent of the overall project’s costs.”

Betty Stieringer’s resolution for the 7:30 a.m. meeting at district offices next to the hospital would bar new projects under Prop. G, approved by voters in June 2006 with a 77.7 percent “yes.”

Stieringer’s husband, Jim, was elected to the Grossmont Union High School District board in 2012 and served on the same healthcare district board for 18 years until 2010.

Shot from ICBOC February report on project progress at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

“[Jim] Stieringer … helped negotiate a new operating lease for Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa in the wake of concerns that the then-existing lease was deeply flawed and led to conflicts of interests,” U-T San Diego reported in 2010 after his resignation from the healthcare board and failed attempt to rejoin the five-member panel.

Jim also filed ballot arguments against Proposition H in June 2014, which voters approved by a stunning 86.7 percent “yes” vote. Prop. H extended the lease agreement with Sharp Healthcare for 30 years — until 2051. It had been set to expire in 2021.

“The consensus is that Sharp provides adequate care,” Jim said in his ballot argument. “The real issue is a free gift of our publicly owned $500 million hospital.”

He said that under the old and new lease Sharp “collects all hospital revenue and profits from which the hospital’s CEO is paid more than $500,000 per year.” He also called for Sharp’s insurance company, headquartered in the Cayman Islands, to relocate to East County “as a show of commitment to our local communities.”

Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Courtesy of scst.com

Betty, the board treasurer, took first in a nine-candidate field in November 2012. She’s worked as a nurse at Grossmont Hospital, the county’s Juvenile Hall, Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility and the Sheriff’s Central Detention Downtown Jail.

Stieringer, with several GOP endorsements, took her husband’s view on Prop. H. She labeled the Sharp lease a “sweetheart deal.”

“We should not be leasing Grossmont Hospital for $1 per year,” she was quoted as saying in the online site East County Magazine. “We should not be donating money to Sharp HealthCare. Since the district is donating our residents’ property taxes to Sharp, we should inquire as to why Sharp pays its Grossmont Hospital CEO more than $600,000 a year when so many East County residents are experiencing difficulties with medical bills.”

An Independent Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, or ICBOC, issued its annual report in February. The latest progress report was in February as well.

The resolution suggests that bond funds are “nearly depleted except for completing the projects currently” with money left to cover legal issues.

She says “all current and active Proposition G projects are significantly behind schedule (the East Tower is 426 days behind its original schedule, the Central Energy Plant is 215 days behind the scheduled completion date, and the Heart and Vascular Center is 215 days behind the contract completion date).”

Jantz, a former La Mesa councilman, says budget and financial information about Prop. G projects have been presented to the board at numerous public meetings over the years on a monthly basis, “including in a detailed board budget workshop two weeks ago.”

He said board members were invited to let staff know if financial information needed to be further refined. 

A detailed report will be presented at Monday’s meeting, he said. 

“The board has been informed of both the successes and challenges on the projects every step of the way,” Jantz said. “The Independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee has been provided the same information – they are very aware and fully informed of the financial status of the projects.”

He said promises to East County residents have not changed since 2006, including 90 new critical-care beds, a refurbished main patient tower, an energy-efficient Central Energy Plant, and the Heart and Vascular Center.

“Those projects are either complete or well under way, most scheduled to finish towards the end of this year, with only one project remaining to bid later this year,” he said. “The board is watching the funding very closely, with an eye on completion.” 

The final bond sale to complete the projects was finalized this week, Jantz said.

“This includes over $24 million in new funding to complete the district’s portion of the Prop. G work. Also, we are very pleased to say we took advantage of an extremely low interest rate environment to refund about $175 million in existing 2007 and 2011 bonds, thus achieving an over $28 million savings that directly benefits taxpayers.”

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