A proposal that may be submitted to the Grays Harbor County Commissioners next week would seek to remove all of Commissioner Wes Cormier’s East County Commission district from the proposed boundaries for Grays Harbor Public Hospital District 2, including much of the Central Park area.
The proposal follows Summit Pacific Medical Center’s desire to remove Montesano from the boundaries of Grays Harbor Community Hospital’s proposed district, and would also exclude the remaining western edge of Cormier’s District 1, which includes much of Central Park and the entire northeast corner of the county bordering Jefferson and Mason counties.
The boundaries of any proposed district must follow voting precinct borders. The Central Park and Devonshire areas are separate voting precincts, but are inside Cormier’s commission district.
The proposal, sent to County Auditor Vern Spatz by Summit Pacific Chief Financial Officer Will Callicoat, would leave a full third of the county out of Community Hospital’s proposed district, Spatz points out.
The excluded areas would be available for possible annexation by either district in the future.
Summit Pacific argues that including the remaining portions of the county not already included in its Public Hospital District 1 — with the exception of the Oakville area — land locks the district and severely limits its ability to grow its revenue base in the future. Summit Pacific officials specifically cite the Montesano area as key to future expansion, and Callicoat said in an email to Spatz that using Cormier’s district boundary was the best way to “approximate a Montesano carve-out.”
Hospital District 1’s borders currently follow the Satsop River from the Mason County line south, then continue south to cover the Delezene and South Bank road areas, turning east to the Thurston County line just south of Porter.
Grays Harbor Community’s proposed district boundaries would cover everything west of Hospital District 1’s borders, including Brady and Montesano. That would leave Summit Pacific’s hospital district with southern expansion into the Oakville area as its only future option.
Grays Harbor excluded the Oakville area from its proposal, reasoning that residents there are closer to Providence Centralia Medical Center, and are more likely to use that hospital’s services than Grays Harbor.
The county commissioners have scheduled four public hearings on the proposed new hospital district beginning on Monday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., followed by two more meetings set for 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. At the conclusion of those hearings, the commissioners will make a final decision on the new district’s boundaries and the number of hospital district commissioners, as well as whether they represent specific districts or are elected “at large.”
The commissioners can only decide on those issues, not whether the measure appears on the ballot or not. For the measure to appear on the August ballot, the commissioners must make their decisions by May 9. If no decision is made by then, the issue will not appear on the ballot until November.
Spatz said he intends to bring maps to the hearings that would show what the potential districts would look like for three, five or seven hospital district commissioners.
“As we get further along, we can refine them to whatever gets proposed,” Spatz said in email on Friday. “Due to the public interest, our GIS department has dropped all other projects to make this a possibility.
“In many ways, the creation of the new district has significantly impacted the county departments’ workloads and priorities,” he added, pointing to the work his office, the assessor, treasurer and the County Commissioners, as well as other county departments, are putting in to gather information and prepare for the decision on the new district.
As long as the commissioners make their decisions on the boundaries and number and representation of the proposed district’s commissioners by May 9, Spatz hopes to be able to set the special filing period for the hospital district commissioner positions for the last three days of the upcoming regular filing period for offices up for election in November. That filing period is set for May 12 through May 16, making the special filing period potentially May 14, 15 and 16, “if all goes well,” Spatz added.
All of next week’s hearings take place at the County Administration Building in the first floor commission chambers in Montesano.