CEO will consider alternative funding for ER relocation
By Ann McCreary
Although Okanogan County voters supported an annual property tax increase for Three Rivers Hospital by a slim margin in last month’s general election, the measure failed because voters in Douglas County rejected it.
After votes from both counties were certified at the end of November, the levy lid lift proposed by the hospital received 49.11 percent in favor and 50.89 percent opposed.
A second tax proposition, a special one-time levy, received a small majority in favor — 50.75 percent overall — but needed a 60 percent approval rate from voters to pass.
Three Rivers Hospital — officially called Hospital District 1 — serves a district that bridges two counties and includes communities from Mazama to Mansfield.
In explaining the need for the additional tax revenues, hospital officials emphasized the need to relocate the hospital’s emergency department to a more recently remodeled space in the hospital and upgrade the heating and cooling systems to comply with health codes.
Hospital officials also said the hospital needs to replace aging equipment including patient beds, EKGs, X-ray equipment and surgical beds.
Scott Graham, Three Rivers Hospital chief executive officer, said the hospital wants to move ahead on its plans to relocate the emergency department.
“It’s just not conducive to the kind of experience we want our patients to have. We have a company, Coast-to-Coast Healthcare Services, providing physicians. In order to maximize their effectiveness, we need better space,” Graham said.
“If we have to figure out some alternative funding we’ll look at that,” he said.
He said the hospital is working with a Spokane company that specializes in buildings and energy efficiency to examine ways to improve efficiency of the hospital facilities.
“While we were disappointed that the initiatives didn’t pass … we came within 60 votes on the levy lid life and pretty close to that on the special levy,” Graham said. “Some of the feedback we got was we were a little late in getting out to the public with education about what we were trying to do.”
The levy lid lift proposition would have increased the current tax rate by 12 cents per $1,000 valuation. The hospital also proposed an excess levy of $1 per $1,000 valuation.
The levy lid lift proposition received 1,625 votes in favor and 1,684 votes opposed from Okanogan and Douglas county voters.
The excess levy proposition received 1,689 votes in favor and 1,639 votes opposed, which fell short of the required 60 percent majority for the measure to pass.