PeaceHealth contract vote tonight; new direction could be charted this week for San Juan Island

A 50-year contract to build and operate a hospital on San Juan Island. A possible new funding source for school sports. A search for a new superintendent. Annexation of 48 acres near the former gravel pit.

Big decisions will be made this week. And meetings today and Thursday may be your last chance to provide input before those decisions are made.

PeaceHealth contract
The San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Frank Wilson EMS Building to consider a 50-year contract with PeaceHealth for construction and operation of a hospital on San Juan Island.

According to the proposed contract, PeaceHealth would bear two-thirds of the cost of buying land for and building the hospital, estimated at $29.8 million. One-third of the cost would be raised philanthropically by the San Juan Community Hospital Committee. The property taxes you pay now to the hospital district would be passed on to PeaceHealth to subsidize healthcare services. Beyond that, PeaceHealth would be responsible for all financial liability of the hospital.

The hospital would operate 24/7 and would offer many services for which islanders must now go to the mainland. The hospital would be governed by a board appointed by PeaceHealth. Your commissioners would be responsible only for San Juan Island EMS.

District officials say a hospital would receive better Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements than the current medical center, which is actually a clinic.

Island Rec funding of school sports
Island Rec and the San Juan Island School District will discuss their partnership to develop a funding strategy for school sports at 7 p.m. in the middle school commons.

The school board eliminated funding for school sports in 2009-10 in an effort to pare $800,000 in spending from its $9 million operating budget. The school district has proposed contracting with Island Rec for funding of school sports.

Island Rec would ask voters in November to support a tax levy of about 4 or 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. District officials say the request would come as a school district bond levy of 40-50 cents per $1,000 expires.

If the levy is approved, Island Rec would not receive its first tax revenues until April 2010, requiring philanthropy to cover the cost of fall, winter and spring sports.

Buck annexation
The Friday Harbor Town Council meets at 5:30 p.m., Mullis Community Senior Center, 589 Nash St.

There will be a public hearing to consider annexation of 48 acres near the former gravel pit. A neighborhood of 240 permanently affordable and market-rate homes would be developed over 20 years.

A development agreement was drafted over a series of meetings between the Buck family, the San Juan Community Home Trust, and town staff members.

The agreement seems to address concerns the town had about the development’s potential impacts on utilities and existing ratepayers. And the county will develop a road connecting Turn Point and Pear Point roads, hopefully alleviating traffic on Warbass Way.

American Camp prairie restoration
San Juan Island National Historical Park will conduct a public meeting Monday, to hear public comment on plans to restore the native prairie at American Camp.

The meeting is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. in Mullis Community Senior Center.

Among the issues are plans for controlling non-native plant and animal species — including Canada thistle and the European rabbit — and re-establishing native plant species such as golden paintbrush and bunch grasses such as Roemer’s fescue.

According to Director of Interpretation Mike Vouri: Restoration of the prairie is needed to “re-establish characteristics of the cultural landscape that more closely reflect the period of 1853 to 1872, as prescribed in the park’s 1966 enabling legislation.”

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