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REFINANCING OF LOCKPORT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL IS DELAYED

Refinancing of Lockport Memorial Hospital's main mortgage has been delayed for at least five weeks.

The board of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, meeting Wednesday in New York City, did not act on the refinancing, a key component of a plan to get the 134-bed hospital out of the red.

Claudia S. Hutton, an authority spokeswoman, said the Lockport deal was not on the agenda because "we have not received acceptable, audited financial statements (from Lockport Memorial) for 1998 yet."

The authority's next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 at Buffalo General Hospital, Hutton said.

She said, "Until we get audited statements, we can't responsibly present that (refinancing) to the board."

Lockport Memorial Chief Executive Officer Clare A. Haar said, "The Dormitory Authority, as part of its normal process, has asked LMH for additional clarification, and we are in the process of providing that."

Hutton said, "Lockport Memorial is not the only hospital from which we haven't received the financials, but they're in a very small club. We know they want the refinancing. They'll get them in."

The refinancing plan calls for the Dormitory Authority to sell investors as much as $15.7 million worth of 40-year, tax-exempt bonds, secured by mortgage insurance issued by the Federal Housing Administration.

The FHA is backing the original 30-year set of mortgage bonds. The Dormitory Authority administers the FHA's hospital mortgages in New York.

The authority board did give preliminary approval for a refinancing earlier this year, and last month the Public Authorities Control Board approved it. That committee consists of the state budget director and the Finance Committee chairmen of the State Senate and Assembly.

The refinancing is supposed to save the hospital more than $400,000 per year, by reducing the interest rate on the mortgage and stretching out the payments for 12 more years.

At present, the hospital is paying $133,284.70 per month, Hutton said, and there is more than $13 million in principal remaining. The original interest rate was 6.95 percent.

Lockport Memorial lost $7 million from 1996 to 1998 and is still losing money, although at a reduced rate, Haar said at a Sept. 13 news conference to announce the corporate affiliation of Lockport Memorial with Newfane Inter-Community Memorial Hospital. Haar heads both facilities.

Besides refinancing the mortgage, the Dormitory Authority has agreed to extend the repayment period by three years on an $800,000 no-interest loan it made to Lockport Memorial early this year. It also agreed to an additional $1.2 million no-interest loan two weeks ago.

However, Hutton said neither agreement is final yet, because FHA regulations forbid Lockport Memorial from entering into debt obligations lasting more than a year.

The spokeswoman said the Dormitory Authority is trying to work out some way to get around that restriction.

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