By Pete Zamplas- William G. Lapsley, who sparked Pardee Hospital’s financial recovery as its recent board chairman, goes for the commissioner seat of 12-year veteran Larry R. Young.
They contend in the GOP primary May 6 for the District 3 seat. The victor wins the seat, being unopposed in the fall. District 3 goes west of Hendersonville, and includes Etowah-Horse Shoe and Mills River in northwest Henderson County.
Bill Lapsley told The Tribune he wants to bring to the Commission technical and financial expertise on facility projects, his experience in attracting jobs and in working with civic partners. He has led several non-profit boards. “I’ve spent the last 40 years in community service. I would submit that my experience far exceeds his. Couple that with the technical background I have, and the (voting) choice is clear.”
William Gregory Lapsley, 65, also brings business sense as a civil engineer. He has headed his William G. Lapsley & Associates local engineering firm, for 40 years.
Cutting project construction and administrative costs and boosting efficiency are main contributions Lapsley said he can make. “I have a lot to offer, to share about projects and get them in the most cost-effective way we can.” He espouses “value engineering” to get contractors and other designers of similar projects to suggest tweaking design details, such as using less costly materials.
Lapsley is a New Jersey native, and University of Wyoming graduate. He and his wife Joan have three sons.
Very notably, Bill Lapsley led the Board of Trustees for Pardee Hospital from 2006 to fall 2012. During this recessionary time, Pardee reversed finances from losses to profit and has modernized facilities and care.
Since then he has been on the 22-member board of its management overseer, UNC Healthcare. It meets every other month, in Chapel Hill. He told The Tribune he will also have time for that board, if elected commissioner, as he is selling his business to associates Tom Jones and Will Bowie by August.
Also, if elected, if county staff ever recommend his former company for its projects, then “I will recuse myself from voting.” The firm has designed sewer projects. Currently, Jones is handling new artificial turf for the county’s new Athletics and Activity center.
Lapsley’s main ongoing project is site improvements for craft brewer Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s 90-acre tract in Mills River, for its Eastern U.S. brewery due to open in coming weeks. He designed for Champion Hills, and several Fletcher area industries and subdivisions.
He has guided Social Service and hospice boards, and seeks “the highest quality health care services.” As Pardee board chairman, “I negotiated the first management agreement between the hospital (with a $170 million annual budget) and UNC Health Care ($2.5 billion).” UNC oversees Pardee among eight hospitals and provides bulk purchasing already saving “millions of dollars.”
Lapsley said “we didn’t sell the hospital” as some foresaw, and he remains opposed to doing so in the future. The hospital was $5 million in the red, a decade ago. “Pardee was in turmoil,” Lapsley said. “We turned it around” with new CEOS including Jay Kirby for three years. Lapsley hails Kirby as being “more efficient, and to improve quality of service and reputation” including as “highest-rated surgical care in the state.” A bold move is the shared Mission-Pardee Health Campus in Fletcher, in its first full year.
Hendersonville City Council member Jeff Miller endorses Lapsley. They served on the Pardee board for four years, with Lapsley as chairman and Miller vice-chairman. “Bill’s very analytical. He’s very detailed-oriented,” Miller said. “He’ll give you the full reason he came to his position. And he can verify facts. He quickly understands all sides, developing common ground and consensus.”
Miller said after much Pardee board “dissension,” then-Commission Chairman Bill Moyer “asked Lapsley and I to go on and get that talented group to work together. I’m very pleased to see the financial situation turn around quickly.”
The $16.2 million health education center project, announced this month, will be at 747 Sixth Ave. W. near Pardee and across Sixth from the former Two Guys Pizza site. Plans are for a 60,000-square-foot facility. Five partners include the City of Hendersonville and county. Pardee and Wingate University will lease it, covering much operational costs.
Classes there will be by Wingate and Blue Ridge Community College such as in nursing and pharmacy, and to update Pardee staff training, Lapsley noted.
Four years ago, the Pardee’s board twice nixed Wingate’s initial demand for exclusivity for pharmacy student internships at Pardee, Lapsley said. The hospital kept using UNC-CH students from UNC-Asheville. He said the stance was “Let’s stick to the promises we made. We’re not kicking out UNC. They (Wingate) got a share.” They soon joined in. “Bill Lapsley worked out a compromise, of shared opportunity,” Miller said. “Had we thrown UNC out, do you really think that (later managerial) relationship would work out?”
The second decision was prompted after commissioner Larry Young pressured for Wingate exclusivity, Miller said. Lapsley said Young, unopposed for reelection then (in 2010), was “feeling his oats.”
Jobs and infrastructure are Lapsley’s other primary campaign issues. Lapsley has planned, designed and had built roads, water systems and cost-saving natural gas.
Supporting all four main sectors of industry, agriculture, tourism and retirement-health balances the local economy, he said. “When one has a tough time, others have held us up.” He said “attracting new, high-paying jobs in all sectors is a critical (county) responsibility.” He has chaired boards of the local Chamber of Commerce and Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. “I have shared in the successful recruitment” of a half-dozen industries, most recently craft brewer Sierra Nevada.
Lapsley sounded less rigid than Young in maintaining steep county “fund balance” reserves. Young wants it to remain at 20 percent, well above the 8 percent state mandate and 12 percent county threshold.
“We don’t need to pile more money into the bank,” Lapsley countered. “That’s piling onto the backs of the taxpayers.” He said steady budgeting, “we don’t need as much in taxes. Taxpayers deserve consideration for lower tax” soon.
He said by June, fiscal 2013-14’s final month, it should be much clearer if the county has “another good year and extra money, to put into the reserve fund.” He praised county staff for “controlling expenses, and bringing them under budget” and conservative revenue projections that are exceeded. Thus, he said, “the county has turned back more money into the rainy day fund.”
Yet he agrees with Young on hesitancy to slash the tax rate for ‘14-15, unless there is enough unspent money and extra revenue in ‘13-14. “The safest is to leave it (the rate) alone, until getting through revaluation next year. It can radically change the whole picture.” Property values are expected to rebound, prompting a slice of the tax rate to take in similar amounts for “revenue neutral” spending.