Negotiations to sell Tooele County's health care system to a private company headquartered in Tennessee are finally making progress, a county commissioner says.

Gary Griffith, who has been meeting with a representative of Community Health Systems to hammer out a sale agreement, said he is optimistic but cautious about negotiations to sell the county's hospital, nursing home, ambulance service and home health agency."It's looking favorable, but we're still working on it," Griffith said last week.

Commission Chairman Teryl Hunsaker said county officials have examined the latest proposal by Community Health but want more clarification before making a decision.

"The commission has come to an agreement on what we want, and we've asked Gary to handle the final negotiations between the county and Community Health."

Commissioners announced earlier this summer they planned to sell the health care system to the firm from Brentwood, Tenn., for an undisclosed sum.

But the plan hit a snag when Heritage Management, a Salt Lake company that was going to acquire and operate the nursing home, pulled out of the deal.

"When Heritage could meet their obligations and do what they said they were going to do, it caused us quite a bit of trouble," Hunsaker said.

A key part of retooling the sales agreement has been to get Community Health to buy the entire county system, he said, with the provision that the private firm can sell the nursing home later if it chooses.

The sale became a point of protest in June when seven of the 11 sitting members of the hospital district's board of trustees resigned en mass to protest the sale and a commission directive that limited their decision-making authority. All seven were county appointees.

The remaining four trustees, who are appointed by local cities, wrote letters in support of the resigning board members.

Hunsaker said the former board members have been replaced with new people, allowing the special service district board to resume its advisory role.

The previous board had urged the commission to sell the medical system to Rural Health Management, a Utah firm headquartered in Nephi that has successfully run the county hospital for the past two years.

Griffith said he will be glad when the sale is finally complete.

"The county has no business being in health care," he said. "We have enough trouble patching potholes, much less trying to run a complicated health care system with expensive technology that changes almost weekly."