Hospital District meetings at Fire District 2

How could the proposed hospital district affect Grays Harbor County Fire District 2, which covers Central Park, Montesano, Brady and parts of the Wishkah and Satsop River valleys?

Find out at two public events coming up the evenings of Tuesday, July 15, and Wednesday, July 23. Representatives from Grays Harbor Community Hospital’s proposed Hospital District 2 and Summit Pacific Medical Center’s Hospital District 1 will be on hand to answer questions.

The first event is in the fire station that serves Central Park, the second one is at the Brady station in Montesano.

“We are really addressing the impact on our tax levy” if the fire district is included into the Community Hospital’s new district, said Fire Chief Leonard Johnson Friday. If voters reject it, there is the potential for part of the fire district to be annexed into Summit Pacific’s District 1.

Several taxing district boundaries overlap and could affect the amount of revenue the fire district receives and therefore how much service they can deliver, the chief added.

If the proposal to create Hospital District 2, which would include Grays Harbor Community Hospital, and elect seven hospital commissioners fails on primary election day Aug. 5, then Summit Pacific plans to file a proposal — to be voted on at the general election on Nov. 4 — that would annex much of the county’s Fire District 2, mainly the Montesano and Brady areas, Johnson said.

Grays Harbor Community’s proposed district boundaries would cover everything west of Hospital District 1’s borders. Summit Pacific would then be prevented from annexing the Montesano-Brady area.

At issue is how the pie of regular tax levies is divvied up between the slices of several government entities that often provide essential services to their district. The money is first apportioned to general, city and road levies, and then to so-called junior districts that provide services such as fire districts, parks, libraries and hospitals.

All are “hungry” for a slice of the pie.

Concern has been raised whether a new hospital district will leave enough levy money to go around. Locally, the total amount is capped at $5.90 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“We all fit into that $5.90 band,” said Johnson, who has been working with the head of the Community Hospital on contingency plans. He worries that the fire district which is already near its cap, might actually see a situation where we collect less than we collect today,” he said.

“Chief Johnson is an asset to our community, we have met numerous times in the recent past and I look forward to continuing to work with him as a public hospital district,” Tom Jensen, CEO of Community Hospital said Friday. Jensen will be at the meetings.

The hospital district proposal provides a mechanism where they can “buy back” any levy revenue that might be lost to another district when the district is created, if the new commissioners agree to it, Johnson and hospital spokesman David Quigg agreed.

“We are working together early so that if there is an impact it would be minimal,” Quigg said Friday. The hospital district can raise up to 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, but is actually limited to the amount it can raise if one of the overlapping districts has less room than 50 cents to reach the cap of $5.90, Quigg said.

If there is capacity to create it, the hospital district is allowed another 25 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, but not allowed to rise above that, so the cost to the taxpayer is “much less than a trip to Olympia. … This is a low cost measure,” the website advocating a “yes” vote says.

The Community Hospital, the only Level III trauma center in the region, is seeking to be part of a public hospital district because they need the stability and revenue. The hospital has more than 650 employees and “is the largest private employer in the county,” their website, explains.

The Fire District 2 meetings are:

Tuesday, July 15 at 7 p.m.

Headquarters station for Central Park

6317 Olympic Highway, Aberdeen

Wednesday, July 23 at 7 p.m.

Station 32, Brady

8 Fire Station Rd., Montesano

Erin Hart, 360-537-3932, Twitter: @DW_Erin


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