With the start of the new year last week, new signage was in place outside Mercy Hospital, Booneville.

Mercy has thrown its hat in the ring to hang a second sign in the city. At the December meeting of the Booneville School Board, Mercy expressed interest in operating a school-based wellness clinic should the school district procure a grant to open such a facility.

Mercy officials, along with Dr. Richard Eccles, who had addressed the board in November, are scheduled to address the school board again next Tuesday at 5 p.m., with the regular school board meeting following at about 6.

An agreement in which Mercy would take over operation of Booneville Community Hospital was announced in October and, with a full house looking on, the Booneville City Council signed off on a 35-page lease agreement between the hospital board and Mercy.

Hospital chief executive officer C. David Hill announced in July the hospital had entered into discussions with Mercy about taking over the hospital.

Though it purchased all inventory and adopted staff into the Mercy family at their current years of service, Mercy will be receiving the monthly sales tax collections and is assuming no debt with the takeover of the hospital.

The hospital lost about $1.5 million in the last fiscal year and included in the debt is a loan with First Western Bank which is currently being retired via sales tax receipt deductions.

Hospital administrator C. David Hill told the council hospital officials anticipate retiring the local debt with accounts receivable collections and likely will do so within the first 60 to 90 days of this year.