City Council votes to revive the hospital push

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Following the rejection by voters of Measure T in April, the city of Avalon has appointed an ad-hoc committee of two members to work with the Catalina Island Medical Center to investigate a potential revival of the effort with a new proposal for voters.Should the community reach some consensus on a new proposal, city officials are not clear about whether or not they will technically be able to get it on the November ballot, though some council members clearly hope so. “The longer we wait the less money that will be collected,” said council member Pam Albers, who had requested Catalina Island Medical Center CEO Jason Paret appear at the July 3 meeting.

Tuesday’s discussion did not focus on all of the problems previously identified with the proposal that failed, even though the measure did receive the approval of more than forty percent of voters. The hospital’s Measure T had sought to raise money by collecting a one dollar cross channel transit tax that would have been sufficient to retire a USDA loan they had proposed to build the facility.

“We appreciate the opportunity to discuss improved healthcare on the island,” said Paret, adding that the hospital has always “enjoyed a collaborative relationship with the city.” Although Paret admitted “land” and “time” were the most pressing issues, Tuesday’s session focused on the big picture and how the group would proceed rather than focusing on why the initial measure failed.

While there were some issues with Measure T that could be enhanced, said Paret, two things are abundantly clear that require immediate attention. First, he said the facility was under state mandate to meet earthquake standards by the year 2030, and he said it will take about 10 years to design, fund and build such a facility.

Moreover, he told the council that the current facility is aging, archaic and costly to operate and maintain. “It is a dinosaur,” he said.

Paret invited members of the council to visit a hospital under construction that he intimated could serve as an inspiration for a new Catalina facility.

The council voted unanimously to appoint council members Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy and Oley Olsen to serve for a six-month term on an ad-hoc committee that will meet with the hospital, its board, community groups and others and report back to the council.

According to a staff report, “the city council would like to participate in discussions surrounding the size of the new facilities and the scope of services to be offered to determine what is sustainable for the community.”

“I’m more than happy to serve,” said MacGugan-Cassidy, adding that she looks forward to the opportunity to participate with community to seek solutions and a workable proposal. City attorney Scott Campbell said he would look into the legal issues and report back to the council at their next meeting with a potential “timeline” and other issues related to the potential of getting any new proposal on the November ballot.

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