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City’s Funding for U of L Hospital Questioned, Facing Cuts

After a brief delay, the Louisville Metro Council is expected to continue its payments to University of Louisville Hospital for indigent care. But concerns over the city budget and the hospital’s pending merger have made that money an easy target.

The city gives about $9.6 million to the hospital every year to care for the city’s poor, though some of that money is returned.

Four council members blocked one payment to the hospital this week because they wanted to see more accounting of how the money is spent. They were also protesting potential changes in care, visitation rights and employee benefits that could happen if the hospital merges with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Health System and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

The merger contract will outline the extent to which U of L Hospital and Jewish Hospital will follow religious ethics. The partners have already announced a few changes. Among them:

  • Tubal ligations will move to Baptist Hospital East
  • Contraception will not be distributed within the hospital, though doctors may still prescribe it
  • Employee benefits to spouses and same-sex partners will be replaced with a “plus one” system under which employees could add spouses, partners, relatives or friends to their insurance plans. Hospital executives have not yet determined whether employees will have to pay for the plus one benefits.

“We’re constantly getting opinions from the county attorney: ‘Well you can’t do that because of church/state separation.’ We can’t even give funding to a number of organizations that do very good work because of that,” says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who led the efforts to table the payment to the hospital. “Why, then, are we giving $9.6 million a year to a public university when they can’t prove that they’re serving indigents and they also, all of a sudden, are claiming they’re not even a public hospital?”

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Local News Politics

Fischer Waiting for Auditor’s Report Before Passing Judgement on MSD

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is waiting until a state auditor’s review of the Metropolitan Sewer District is complete before making any judgements on a new controversy in the agency.

MSD Executive Director Bud Schardein is set to receive a $200,000 bonus from a hidden trust fund. MSD officials say the compensation is standard to retain directors, but critics say it’s unusual for public officials to receive such hefty payouts.

Some Metro Council members have called for increased oversight and accountability of the MSD board, which is appointed by the mayor.

“I think it’s continuing to have the board recognize they’ve got a darn responsibility. They have a responsibility to the ratepayers and it’s not a club anymore,” says Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16.

But any changes will likely have to wait until the review Fischer asked State Auditor Crit Luallen to conduct is complete.

“The mayor doesn’t want to draw any conclusions before he sees that audit,” says Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter. “So we’re waiting on those results.”

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Local News

Louisville Clock Close to Home at Theater Square

The old Louisville Clock may be close to finding a new home at Theater Square on Fourth Street. Mayor Greg Fischer has the final say on where the clock is placed and spokesman Chris Poynter says Theater Square is the target location right now.

“I think right now this seems to be the preferred location for everyone involved, the Mayor is pretty close to signing off on it,” Poynter says “it sort of brings it back to fourth street, it was at the Galleria years ago, so this is just a couple blocks south of that.”

Some changes may be needed in the area to accommodate the clock, but Poynter says business owners in the area seem enthusiastic about it. It would be close to the clock’s original home, the old River City Mall, which is now occupied by Fourth Street Live.

The 45-foot tall clock, sometimes called the Derby Clock, has been sitting at Bowman field for several years while local businessman Adam Burckle has been coordinating efforts to restore it.

Designed by local artist Barney Bright and dedicated in 1976, the clock features prominent figures from Louisville’s history, including King Louis XVI, George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, Thomas Jefferson and a fictional “Belle” of Louisville.

The clock is in the shape of a large racetrack and at noon, the figures race around the track on horses while other sculptures from Louisville’s past watch from the grandstand at the top.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Mayor’s Office Says MetroSafe Audit Was Planned, Will Be Conducted

Two members of the Louisville Metro Council have asked for an audit of MetroSafe, following the recent failure of the civil defense sirens during a tornado warning. The mayor’s office will conduct the audit, but not necessarily because of the request.

Even though MetroSafe officials say they’ve fixed any issues with the sirens, the heads of the council’s Public Safety committee requested the audit. In a statement, councilmen James Peden and David James say there have been numerous concerns with MetroSafe, and an audit is long-overdue.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says the audit has been planned since day one of Fischer’s time in office, since the mayor plans to review every department.

“We have audits going on for the Planning and Design department we announced recently, for Animal Services and also for the Public Works department. We already have three ongoing and we will be announcing more in the coming months,” he says.

Poynter says he’s not sure when the MetroSafe audit will begin, but adds that the council members’ request will not likely change the timeline.

“We appreciate the council’s concerns and we will be auditing MetroSafe. The concerns over the sirens—we had a problem, we did an investigation and we corrected the action. So we’re pretty confident that the sirens being silent will never happen again.”

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Local News Next Louisville

Abramson Spokesperson Joins Fischer Campaign

by Stephanie Crosby

The last day on the job for Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson’s spokesperson Chris Poynter is tomorrow. Poynter says he’s leaving the Abramson administration for a position with democrat Greg Fischer’s mayoral campaign.

“I don’t think there is a current plan to fill my position, I think the duties here at the mayor’s office will be scattered among the existing staff,” says Poynter. “That could change in the future, but I think that’s the plan for now.”

There are only six months remaining in the Abramson administration. The mayor decided not to seek a final term, and will instead run for Lieutenant Governor.

Poynter will serve as Director of Communications for the Fischer campaign, a position in which he says he’ll also oversee policy matters. He starts the new job July 6th.