The board of the New River Medical Center voted Thursday to approve an affiliation agreement and a lease agreement with CentraCare Healthcare systems which will guarantee the future of healthcare in the hospital district and bring an investment of $68.82 million into the district over the next 10 years. "This is a very exciting and memorable night," said Affiliation Committee Member Bob Esse. "This may not be the best fit for everyone but it is the best fit for NRMC. We have every reason to believe they will treat the staff extremely well and that the patients will benefit." Effective April 1, the new agreement includes CentraCare's commitments to pay off the hospital district's bond debts and to invest 1.4 times the depreciation of the hospital back into the facility over the next 10 years. This includes an investment of $1 million to recruit and train new staff, $2 million to reopen the birthing unit and Level II nursery, and $1 million to update the emergency department. The lease agreement also contains an option to allow CentraCare to purchase NRMC in 2016, once the bond payments are up. Former board chair and affiliation task force member Erv Danielowski said he thought there should be a public meeting first to explain all the details. "This has become a short-term lease with a purchase agreement," he said. "We told the public it would be a long term lease." "This is still the same lease agreement we talked about before," said NRMC Attorney Tom Schroeder. "Nothing has changed." If CentraCare decided to purchase NRMC in 2016 or any year thereafter, they would pay the sum of $2 million to a non-profit yet to be designated to be used to fund various options at the hospital, including covering costs for those who cannot afford to pay for their own healthcare. The new lease agreement does not allow CentraCare to sell any part of the NRMC campus while they are leasing the facility, which was an option in previous versions of the lease. Also, if CentraCare were to default on their commitment to the hospital district the property can be repossessed. Speaking for CentraCare, Dr. Terry Pladson said the agreements were the culmination of many months of work. "We are delighted to have been chosen by you," he said. "We hope to move things along quickly and have our due diligence completed by mid-March." "Quality healthcare for our community was always at the top of the list of must-haves," said Board Chair Sheldon Johnson. "We had a list of five must-haves from affiliation. CentraCare has agreed to all of them, including recruiting and retaining primary care providers in the community, investing in the facility so we can have state-of-the-art healthcare, maintaining and developing services in the community, giving us local input and ensuring our financial viability." Board Member Linda Doerr, who works for CentraCare, abstained from voting. Doug Schneider from Silver Creek, said he wouldn't vote on the agreements because it had not been presented to the public. He resigned his seat and walked out. On the first vote, the board was split 50-50, with Johnson, Candy Benoit and Bob Dawson voting in favor and Rob VanDenBerg, Tom Campbell and Richard Helms voting no. Helms and Campbell changed their vote when a friendly amendment was attached to have a meeting to inform the public of the details of the transaction in greater depth. The meeting will be held after March 3 but before the next board meeting.