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Update on CR property purchase

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The District’s efforts to purchase the College of the Redwoods Educational Site in Garberville are proceeding. We have entered escrow, and we have a nominal closing date of September 30, 2018. However, the new hurdle of needing an exemption from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors due to its proximity to the airport is likely to push back the escrow closing date.

What about the airport zone?

County Supervisors have granted exemptions in the past for projects within an airport zone

We have a number of reasons to be optimistic that the Supervisors will grant this exemption. While it is true that a portion of the property is located too close to the runway to be consistent with the County’s Airport Land Use Compatibility (ALUC) plan, many locales throughout the West have adopted new guidelines which soften their ALUC language to say health care facilities are “not recommended” rather than “prohibited” within this zone. It is also true that the County Supervisors have granted exemptions in the past for projects within an airport zone, in at least one case granting that exemption to a private developer to build within the zone of a north-county airport much busier than ours. The Supervisors expressed concern that granting this particular exemption might not not be in keeping with the terms of a just-completed FAA-funded upgrade of the Garberville Airport. We’ve taken the advice of the County Public Works staff and hired an aviation consulting firm to develop possible solutions to present to the Supervisors at their next hearing on the topic.

College of the Redwoods Instructional Site

Can we extend the escrow?

Yes, we can extend the escrow if necessary. Completing all CEQA studies and addressing any issues which may arise from them can be a lengthy process, and our purchase agreement with College of the Redwoods states that the term of this escrow can be extended until at least December 31, 2019.

Will Measure F pay for it?

Purchasing the CR Instructional Site is outside the scope the Measure F parcel tax renewal. Parcel tax revenues provide the community support we need to continue current District healthcare services, along with facility maintenance, compliance with the 2020 OSHPD seismic retrofit requirements, and planning for the new facility we’ll need by 2030.

The purchase price for the CR site is $1.1 million. The SoHum Health Foundation is undertaking a capital campaign to raise a 25% down payment, with the balance to be financed via a low-interest loan from a government or non-profit funding source. Specific plans for financing this project, including the necessary new construction, will be the subject of another column.

Eyes on the prize

Once the property purchase is completed, we look forward to continuing the community activities currently enjoyed at the site as we continue our new-facility planning. We recognize the incalculable value of the existing Playhouse and adjoining classroom spaces for local community cultural and educational activities, including the Garberville Community School.

We will continue to work with The Redwood Playhouse, the community non-profit which renovated and has been managing the Playhouse for the last five+ years. We have enjoyed renting the space from them for our large meetings and workshops, as well as holding the District-sponsored Tabata exercise classes there several days a week. Our SoHum Health Foundation office will continue to be located in a CR classroom, and other classrooms will continue to be available for community activities. We also look forward to working with CR to continue offering and even expanding the Community Education classes SoHum community members have enjoyed over the last few years.

Coping with uncertainties

All that said, it is still remotely possible that we will not succeed in purchasing this property which meets all our needs so beautifully, conveniently, and economically. In that case we’ll renew our search. Though there are no other properties currently on the market that provide sufficient space and reasonable access, a workable and OSHPD-compliant alternative might come on the market in the next few years.

The national healthcare environment is ever-changing as well, with the threat of major cuts to federal Medicare funding and some intriguing new healthcare models being discussed in state and federal legislatures. These include a congressional bill that would allow for operation of a rural emergency room as part of a healthcare complex that does not include an acute care hospital.

In the meantime, we continue to focus on our mission of providing high-quality medical services in SoHum along with education and activities that promote optimal health.

Watch our column in the Humboldt Independent for more information on all of the above topics.

Barbara Truitt, Former Foundation Director and Outreach Dept, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District