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Whidbey General Hospital officials makes $50 million bond vote official

Hospital Commissioner Anne Tarrant chats with Commissioner Ron Wallin before Monday’s Whidbey General Hospital Board meeting alongside commissioners Roger Case and Paul Zaveruha. The commissioners unanimously approved running a $50 million expansion bond that will go before voters May 17.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Hospital Commissioner Anne Tarrant chats with Commissioner Ron Wallin before Monday’s Whidbey General Hospital Board meeting alongside commissioners Roger Case and Paul Zaveruha. The commissioners unanimously approved running a $50 million expansion bond that will go before voters May 17.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Leaders will have less than two months to persuade the public to sign off on a bond to pay for an expansion of Whidbey General Hospital.

A special election was set Monday for May 17 in what will be a vote-by-mail election.

The Whidbey General Hospital board of commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday night moving forward with a $50 million bond election that, if successful, would fund an expansion of the hospital. Monday evening’s bond resolution formalizes a project that has been nearly a decade in the making.

“I’ve watched this process go on for nine years. We can’t backpedal on this,” Commissioner Roger Case said during the meeting.

“We can’t have a great hospital until we improve patient rooms,” Commissioner Anne Tarrant added.

With the date and exact amount now set, hospital spokeswoman Trish Rose said a big push will begin to promote the proposal. She said she wanted to wait until the resolution was adopted before rounding up volunteers to help sell the expansion project.

Hospital leaders want $50 million to pay for construction of a new wing at the Coupeville hospital. The expansion will house 39 single-patient rooms. Rose said the new rooms are essential to improve the quality of patient care for the hospital to comply with privacy regulations.

The hospital currently has 34 beds, however Rose said many of those rooms are doubles. The single rooms will help improve such things as infection control and provide a better space for family interaction.

“It’s not about capacity, it’s about quality of care,” Rose said.

Rose said the future use of the current hospital bed space hasn’t been determined yet, but there is a potential to expand hospital services such as the sleep lab, provide more examination space or room for additional doctors.

The $50 million bond has to pass by a 60 percent supermajority. Should voters approve the bond, property owners would have to pay 34 cents per $1,000 assessed property value per year for 26 years at today’s values. That works out to $102 for a $300,000 home.

Supporters need to have their promotional campaign substantially complete 21 days before the election, which is when the Island County Auditor’s Office mails out ballots to Whidbey Island voters.

To date, feedback during meetings with community groups has been positive, Rose said, but she is concerned that having a May election might cause validation concerns. In order for the results to count, 40 percent of the voters who participated in the previous election have to cast a vote in the upcoming election.

However, since the county converted to an all mail-in election in the spring of 2007, there hasn’t been a validation issue for special elections.

Hospital CEO Tom Tomasino has been meeting with community groups since August outlining the need for the expansion. Officials did hold an ill-advertised public forum last week, but nobody from the public attended. Several more public forums are scheduled in the coming weeks in the following places:

  • Tuesday, March 22, 12:30 p.m., Bayview Senior Center.

  • Monday, March 28, 1 p.m., Oak Harbor Senior Center.

    Other dates will be announced later.

  • Community Events, April 2014

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