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FCMC makes top 100 list for fourth year in a row

Franklin County Medical Center was listed in the 2020 list of the top 100 critical access hospitals (CAH) in the country, for the fourth year in a row.

“Our staff works very hard to care for the patients that come to our facility. They are continuously training and making every effort to provide the highest standard of care. Being on this list is an honor that should reflect on the staff and administration as an indicator that their efforts are making a difference for our patients and the community at large,” said Trish Checketts, a member of the hospital’s board of directors.

“The environment of the healthcare industry is constantly changing and keeping abreast of the standards of care is important to the facility as a whole. We are pleased to be on this list and are committed to continuing to offer the very best care as we move forward,” she continued.

Becker’s Hospital Review published this year’s list on Feb. 24. The top-100 CAH list is assembled by the Chartis Center for Rural Health every year. A place in the ranking is based on the iVantage Hospital Strength Index, which uses eight different measures of hospital quality and performance.

The Franklin County Medical Center was founded in 1929. Its operations are directed by a board appointed by the Franklin County Commissioners. Those board members are: Richard Westerberg, Trish Checketts, Lance Henderson, Dan Keller, Paul Campbell, Strat Roper, Sue Conklin, Robert Swainston, Darin Dransfield and Paul Smart.

With its recently finished addition, FCMC has 20 routine-access beds and an attached 35-bed skilled nursing facility. It is the largest employer in Franklin County. In addition to being on the top-100 CAH list for four years, FCMC was also ranked as one of the 150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare in 2017 and 2018 by Becker’s Hospital Review.

“The addition has made a tremendous difference in our being able to provide high quality care to our community,” said Checketts.

According to the American Hospital Directory, FCMC had $30,031,664 of total patient revenues, 462 discharges and 2,241 total patient days in 2018, the most recent year for which federal statistics are available.

There are just over 1,300 CAH facilities in the United States. Idaho has 27 CAHs according to the state’s Department of Health and Welfare.

The 1997 federal Balanced Budget Act defines a CAH as a rural-area hospital facility with no more than 25 beds and an average hospital stay under 96 hours. In addition, a CAH must be more than 35 miles from another hospital, with exceptions allowed for areas with poor roads or difficult terrain. The facility must offer 24/7 emergency care, any physician on-call must be on-site within 60 minutes, and a registered nurse must be on site at all times when acutely ill patients are in the hospital.

Preston takes back state championship

The trip to the state capitol this year was everything the Preston boys‘ basketball team hoped it would be. Preston earned their fourth state title in five years when they beat Moscow in the final match, March 7 in Boise. They also dispatched Idaho Falls and Middleton in the process. The game with Middleton, which went right down to the wire, was arguably the best game to watch in the 4A bracket.

NeciaSeamons / By NECIA P. SEAMONS 

A horse-drawn wagon surrounded by wailing sirens on several vehicles from the Franklin County Sherrif’s Department, the Preston Police Department, the ambulance department, and the fire department paraded the 4A State Basketball Ball Championship team from Preston High down state street upon their arrival home on March 8. The streets were lined with appreciative fans.

Against Moscow, the Indians jumped out to a 2-8 lead in the first quarter of the state championship game, and never looked back. The Bears were largely a question mark before the contest having no common opponents with the Indians before the tournament. So the strong start was welcome.

Ty Hyde opened the scoring and Preston went up 4-0 before Moscow answered with a three, and then took the lead 6-4. It was the last time the Bears led in the contest as Preston shut them down, allowing only two more points in the quarter while scoring 16.

The Indians limited Moscow to single digits in all but the final frame. After taking a 35-17 lead at the half, Preston’s intensity faltered in the third where they scored just seven points, but the Bears were unable to take advantage of the lapse, scoring only five.

Though Moscow outscored Preston 21-17 in the fourth, it was too little too late and Preston won, 59-43. Cooper Hobson was key, with four back-to-back three pointers in the first half. Unlike the Middleton game, the Indians also shot well from the charity stripe, leaving no holes for the Bears to exploit.

Hobson led the team with 17 points. Luke Smellie followed with 13 points, nine rebound and eight assists. Ty Hyde added 12 points five rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots effectively keeping Moscow out of the paint. Cole Harris’ six points in the first half were vital to Preston’s early momentum. Garrett Ward added five and Scott Dunn, Gabe Hammons and Brecker Knapp two each.

Against Middleton, Preston prevailed 51-50 in a game that had fans on their feet numerous times as they tried to provide a sixth man to help their respective teams. Their cheering was deafening.

The gym was packed and people were turned away for lack of seating to watch the hotly contested match between the top two teams in 4A.

The game featured eight ties and eight lead changes before the final buzzer. Preston put the first points on the board with a bucket from Cole Harris but could not get any breathing room at any time during the contest.

“Every time we would get up three or four they would hit a three,” said Coach Tyler Jones. “They are a solid team.”

Though the Vikings tied it up, they never led in the first half. Preston’s largest lead came one minute before the half when Preston went up 26-20 and took that lead to the locker room.

Middleton came out strong in the third quarter and outscored Preston to take a four-point lead just under a minute in. The Indians tied it up on a three-pointer by Garrett Ward and retook the lead at the 6:00 minute mark. The Vikings stayed right with Preston tying it up twice more and took a five-point lead before Preston rallied and cut it to three to start the fourth. The highlight of the quarter for the Indians was a breakaway two-handed dunk by Luke Smellie that brought fans to their feet.

The fourth quarter was full of emotion as both teams battled for every possession trying to gain an advantage. Finally, trailing 49-50 with 56 seconds left Smellie brought the ball down and pulled up for a jumper that put Preston ahead 51-50 with 24 seconds to go. A jump ball, a steal and a foul brought the clock to 5.2 and Middleton had possession. Their shot was short, bounced off the rim and Scott Dunn came up with the rebound for the win.

The Indians came to Boise knowing that the first game would determine their chances for a state title. Add in that they were playing the very team that crushed their hopes for a fourth consecutive state title in the championship last season and it made for a very motivated team. They defeated the defending state champions 58-47.

in the quarter finals game, Idaho Falls won the tip off, but after that it was all Preston in the first quarter. Ty Hyde put the first points on the scoreboard with two free throws and the Indians went up 15-2 before the Tigers were able to rally. Preston’s early lead gave them all the cushion they needed to win despite scoring just six points in the final frame.

“I liked our start,” said Jones. We had good energy and really got Ty going especially in the first half. If you can do that it puts you in a good position to relax and settle in a bit.”

Leading 21-11 at the end of the first quarter Preston never trailed in the contest and never let Idaho Falls get close enough to be a threat. Leading 35-23 at the half where Hyde scored 16 of his game high 26 points, the challenge was to maintain their intensity and keep the Tigers from making a comeback.

To their credit Idaho Falls never gave up even after trailing by 21 late in the third quarter. Erase the first quarter and they played the Indians close the rest of the way, even outscoring them 13-6 in the fourth quarter.

“They are a solid team,” said Jones of the Tigers. “It was a good win in the first round and put us in a good spot.”

In addition to Hyde’s 26 points and 14 rebounds, Luke Smellie added seven points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Scott Dunn chipped in nine points, Copper Hobson eight, Cole Harris six and Garrett Ward two.

Weston hears request for mother-in-law apartment

Steven Wood of Sunrise Engineering gave Weston City Council a breakdown of the water tank and well’s finances thus far at the council meeting last week. The project is on schedule and in the black financially; both of the $500,000 grants from The Army Corp of Engineers and the Community Development Block Grant from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development have been fully claimed. The Dept. of Environmental Quality loan has not been touched yet. However, should that money need to be used there is a quirk of Idaho law that may prove to be the city’s saving grace. Loans for municipal projects do not close until the project is finished, so most of the $406,000 allotted for the loan can be refunded that will lower the principle amount and therefore the amount of interest charged.

The remaining items that need to be done such as a final test of the new well’s water quality, building the well house and piping the well to the tank are also on time and on budget. The council is currently looking into insurance options for the tank.

On his way out Wood handed a copy of the project budget to Matt Regan. He then stood to inform the city of the results of their annual financial audit. The city is also in the black. More than in the black thanks to the bond that was passed for the new water tank the city is very solvent, at least on paper. Taking that into account though he attributed the city’s excellent financial health to the bookkeeping of Sharon Kropf the city clerk and the diligence of the council as a whole.

In the mayor’s report it was stated that Councilman Scott Vahsholtz will be representing the city at an upcoming coronavirus preparation workshop. At this turn in conversation Mayor Greg Garner recounted a recent trip to Logan’s Sam’s Club where water was flying off the shelves by the cart full. In wake of this the council wished to assure the citizens of Weston that the water supply for the city is safe and secure, that coronavirus isn’t spread by water and that so long as people wash their hands and use good hygiene the chances of catching corona or any other disease is reduced.

The remodel of the old city building is progressing, as no asbestos was found. The current plan is to gut the building in April, leaving the exterior shell and redesigning the interior to better utilize the building’s capacity.

During the public comment section Chris Yancey asked if he could get a mailbox for his mother-in-law who had just moved into a small apartment that he had refurbished for her. The request for the mailbox stems from a desire to give her a sense of independence and privacy. The council asked if a post office box would be acceptable for her as an alternative to a new address but she is in no condition to go that far.

The problem here is one of multi-family dwellings and they have been an issue in the past. The concern is that by giving the apartment a separate mailing address they would be giving a future owner the right to sell or rent that apartment separately. While Yancey assured the council that once the apartment’s current resident no longer needs it, the apartment will be reincorporated into the house, the problem would be one of precedence. Anyone in the future could point to this situation and use it against the city. The apartment is attached to the house via the utilities, and it doesn’t have its own power and water meter. The council advised Yancey that no actions could be taken during the public comment portion of the agenda and recommended that he ask the City Clerk to be placed on the agenda for the April council meeting. In the meantime the council plans to study the mother-in-law clauses that have already been implemented by other legislative bodies.

Corona virus delays pelt auctions

After six years of dropping pelt prices, a human virus is behind more late bills for mink farmers.

The problem is that the fear the accompanies the coronavirus has prohibited farmers from getting their pelts to buyers.

Seventy percent of the mink pelt market purchased by Chinese buyers, another 25 percent of the buyers are Russian and European, said Challis Hobbs, a local who works as the North American representative for Saga Furs of Finland. The company will sell 11-12 million mink pelts and just over 2 million fox pelts annually, he said.

They do so in auctions, which are attended mostly by Chinese buyers. “Here in the states, wearing fur is more of a fashion thing. But in China, they need it. It’s cold,” he said.

Thanks to the corona virus, the first auction of the year, held in Denmark, was postponed, and so was the second, hosted by Saga Furs in Finland.

“The health of our customers and employees is a top priority at Saga Furs. Therefore, Saga Furs has made the decision to postpone the March Auction. The March auction will be held on 1-7 April with the inspection dates 27-31 March.

“By moving the auction to a later date, we want to assure a broad attendance and a strong auction by allowing those customers currently under travel restrictions to attend the auction. Additionally, we wish to avoid the health hazards associated with large gatherings of people at this time.

“We will continue to follow the guidance from health officials,” states Saga Furs’ website. As many as 600 buyers attend Saga Furs auction in Finland.

That decision will not affect local mink farmer, Lewis Palmer, who has decided to hold on to his pelts for a better market.

But others depending on the sell have been left without a barometer on what to do; should they prepare for a 2021 crop or hold off a year?

“We’ve lost money for four years in a row. We can’t afford another bad year,” said Kent Beckstead, a second generation mink farmer who decided to diversify a few years ago to better weather the constantly shifting climate o agriculture.

Since 2014, when 90 million pelts worldwide saturated the market, prices have fallen off, said Hobbs. Today, the market has produced around 28 million pelts, said Hobbs — three million of which were produced in the United States.

Beckstead hopes the auction houses will create an online method for auctioning the pelts. It has been done before, but not on a wide scale. Hobbs said Saga Furs is working to do so.