The wasteland that is the project site for Metropolitan Hospital's new campus in Wyoming may get a new lease on life. The hospital needs to sell $100 million in municipal bonds to get the moribund construction project, located near the new South Beltline freeway, completed. If it can sell the bonds, construction resumes in April. To this end, its proposed bonds received a Triple-B rating from Standard & Poor's, just a couple of rungs above junk bonds.
This isn't surprising. Metropolitan Hospital was rocked last year by scandal in which it retaliated against a top executive who exposed false claims the hospital was making to increase the federal funds it received. (In the end, the hospital had to pay the federal government $6.25 million.) Even without the issue of the hospital being mired in fraud, one has to wonder why a brand-spanking new hospital complex is needed in Grand Rapids. There is already plenty of capacity. In fact, Metropolitan has taken to advertising that there are no waiting lines in emergency at its current facility.
So why has Metropolitan overextended itself with this project? Well, Amway-founder Rich DeVos had a lot of land to sell in Wyoming at a time when he was liquidating assets, and his partner Jay VanAndel was one of the hospital's guiding lights. But, far be it from me to suggest that these two pyramid-builders were involved in self-dealing to the hospital's detriment. After all, we're talking about the founders of Amway, one of the noblest ventures in the annals of American capitalism.
Of course, a big reason boondoggles like this get started is that bureaucrats spending other people's money get big ideas. Whether the ideas make any financial sense is secondary to the glory of building the best non-profit palaces. Therefore, dear readers, you can be assured that your executive director will not be purchasing any Metropolitan Hospital bonds later this month. This is a white elephant our community does not need.