BARSTOW The City Council will be deciding Monday if it will decrease the monthly rent that Barstow Community Hospital will have to pay if construction of the new hospital falls behind schedule.

As part of the current lease agreement, the hospital will have to pay the city over $7 million that it owes in rent for the current facility only if the new hospital is not completed by November 2012. The current monthly lease rent is $100,000 and the hospital has asked the city to reduce the amount to $50,000 a month, according to the city's agenda item description.

Community Health Services which owns BCH is building a new hospital because the current hospital will not meet stricter earthquake regulations. The City of Barstow owns the current facility and is currently waiving the rent for CHS while the new facility is built. CHS will own the new hospital building.

Although the construction of the new hospital is currently on schedule with a "topping out" ceremony scheduled for Tuesday morning where the last piece of structural steel will be put into place the hospital is asking for reduced rent in order to provide for upgrades to the existing facility, according to City Manager Curt Mitchell.

"They're spending a lot of money on the new hospital and adding this abatement would allow them to continue with upgrades for their ongoing operations and equipment," said Mitchell, who added that there was no reason for the city to think that the hospital would not be finished on time.

The $100,000 a month is a pending liability that the hospital has to take into consideration while also paying for the construction of a new hospital, said Mitchell. By reducing that amount, the hospital will be able to better fund its operations.

If the City Council passes the new lease agreement, the decrease in rent will begin May 1.

The hospital had previously asked for a different lease amendment that would have put a cap on the amount owed by the hospital which was $7.2 million in December. Three members of the City Council voted against the amendment at the time and the lease agreement failed.

Representatives from BCH were unavailable to comment on Friday.

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(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com