Hospital to sell Bayview property

Tarrant - Justin Burnett / The Record
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

Whidbey General Hospital will move forward with the sale of a 4.5-acre lot in Bayview.

The board of commissioners agreed in an unanimous 5-0 vote at its regularly scheduled 7 a.m. meeting Monday that the property was no longer compatible with the designs of the hospital, and that selling the property was the best decision.

“It seems to me to hold the property really doesn’t make sense,” said Commissioner Grethe Cammermeyer, who represents South Whidbey.

She added that she had not heard negative feedback from the community about selling the undeveloped lot, only about the circumstances surrounding its original purchase six years ago.

“It’s been about how we got it, the process that took place,” she said.

Located across Highway 525 from The Goose Community Grocer, the undeveloped lot was bought from a private landowner for $1.98 million in January, 2008, as the site of a future South Whidbey clinic. The board at the time didn’t get an appraisal, but Island County property records list its value at the time at $618,000 — a $1.36 million difference from the purchase price.

Island County recorded the property value at $595,890 in 2013.

The property was never developed, however, due to changes in the economy, affecting the district’s ability to acquire revenue bonds, and laws surrounding critical access hospitals that reduced reimbursements for out -patient services.

“I understand there is a negative history on this, but there is nothing we can do to go back and change it,” said Commissioner Georgia Gardner, who represents Central Whidbey.

“I’m not in favor of holding onto something that we can’t use, so I think we need to sell it,” she said.

Gardner proposed putting revenue from the sale into existing programs that do “produce results” for the hospital and its outlying facilities.

Board President Anne Tarrant also addressed the background of the purchase, saying that a recent examination of board minutes indicate the property was discussed in open session.

“Whether people like the price or not, it was 2007,” Tarrant said. “Prices were extremely inflated, but none of us were on the board at that time, and I can’t go back and recreate it, nor do I want to.”

Tarrant and a hospital spokeswoman initially told The Record in April that it was unclear why the land was purchased for so much because property acquisitions are discussed in executive sessions, which are closed to the public. A later public records request filed by The Record revealed that much of the board’s discussion about buying property for a new South Whidbey clinic was in fact done in open session, but that it did retire behind closed doors Sept. 10, 2007, to talk about the purchase. The board reconvened and authorized then-CEO Scott Rhine and then-CFO Doug Bishop to begin negotiating with the owner.

Later minutes do not reflect any detailed conversations about the purchase price, other than in November to limit the total project cost to $12 million.

Tarrant agreed with the other hospital commissioners Monday, saying there was nothing that could be done about the situation and that selling the property was the logical choice as it is no longer consistent with the hospital’s strategic plan.

“Looking forward and at our strategic plan, that property really does not fit,” she said.


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