Southern Humboldt County voters rejected Measure W, a parcel tax that would fund a new hospital, according to preliminary elections results released Tuesday night.
More than 55 percent of the Humboldt County voters rejected the tax while about 44 percent approved the measure, according to the unofficial results.
Matt Rees, CEO of the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District was surprised to hear the results Tuesday night.
“That’s kind of shocking,” he said. “I thought it would be closer.”
According to the election data processed by the Humboldt County Elections office, more than 1,800 Southern Humboldt voters participated in the mail-in special election.
A handful of Mendocino County voters also weighed in on the measure, with similar results. Of the 46 people who cast votes, 20 voted for the measure and 26 against, according to the preliminary results.
Measure W would have raised the existing parcel tax from $125 to $170 for 45 years and allowed the district to build a new hospital in Southern Humboldt County.
The current hospital in Garberville, Jerold Phelps Community Hospital, cannot be renovated to meet the requirements which are required to be in place by 2030.
The defeat of the measure could be detrimental to health care services in Southern Humboldt, Rees said.
“We have to figure out a way to build a new hospital by 2030 or there’s no emergency room services,” said Rees. “There’s quire a few services that we have to discontinue if there is no new hospital by 2030.”
Although the sale of the College of the Redwoods Garberville site to the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District was rejected at a CR board of trustees vote in April, Rees said he is still hopeful the sale will go through.
“That’s the best option in keeping an emergency room open,” said Rees. “We’re going to have to figure out other funding options.”
He said that one option going forward may be to try to pass the parcel tax again.
But he’s worried that the longer the district has to wait to get funding approved, the more costly the project could become.
“It’s probably going to cost us more because interest rates are going to go up,” he said. “It could take years longer.”
Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.