By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter
Ballpark estimates suggest the San Juan Island Hospital District could net as much as $1.5 million from selling the old EMS building and the old medical center building it owns on Spring Street in Friday Harbor.
At it’s monthly meeting on Feb. 21, the Hospital Commission agreed to “surplus” the former EMS Building and put it up for sale or lease. The commission will meet again March 20 to decide the fate of the more valuable Inter-Island Medical Center building next door.
“We want to sell both buildings,” said EMS Chief Jim Cole. But the district may have to lease them out for a while, he said, if officials can’t find a buyer willing to pay close to what they’re worth.
Neither building is in use since the both emergency medical services and the medical center have shifted their operations to the Peace Island Medical Center, which opened in the late November.
Cole explained that state law requires the commission to get three reliable estimates of fair market value for each of the properties, average those estimates, and sell each property for no less than 90 percent of the average estimate.
Estimates could be far off, said Gary Franklin of Windermere Realty, because they were based on appraisals made in 2005 by the county assessor. Franklin explained that current fair market value might be less because the buildings are eight years older and because the recession has lowered values considerably.
Commercial property sales have also been slow of late, Franklin said.
Pamela Hutchins, superintendent and secretary of the hospital district, says the district has received several preliminary expressions of interest, including one from the San Juan Islands Museum of Art for the EMS building. Still, Hutchins cautions that the hospital commission must “dot the i’s and cross the t’s” before any serious negotiations can begin.
Windermere’s Franklin brainstormed a few suggestions with colleagues.
Here’s what they came up with: “a business center (shared reception area and numerous private offices); a technology incubator (since there is high-speed internet to the hospital building); a school of some sort (photography, design, art, etc.) that could have virtual classrooms and students worldwide; a conference center; a nonprofit hub; a culture and film center. Whatever it becomes, it must sustain itself and not be a burden on the taxpayers of the county.”
Franklin is soliciting suggestions on his blog at www.fridayharborsji.com.
Sale of the buildings will no doubt be a bittersweet moment for everybody that’s connected to the building, Cole said. He added, however, that “bringing in the money will be a big boost to carrying out our mission.”