At a special meeting on Thursday the present College of the Redwood trustees unanimously voted to sell the surplus Garberville instructional site to the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District for $1.1 million.
The healthcare district was the highest bidder, said CR Board of Trustees president Sally Biggin; also bidding on the site was the county of Humboldt. The Board of Trustees had previously voted against selling the site to the healthcare district so a property appraisal could be completed.
“It was the exact same as they had bid before with a $50,0000 deposit,” Biggin said.
She said trustees Richard Dorn and Colleen Mullery were unable to attend the special meeting but Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District CEO Matt Rees was there.
“He was just so thrilled,” she said about Rees after the decision was made. “He came and shook everyone’s hand.”
On Friday the Times-Standard was able to reach a relieved-sounding Rees by phone.
“I was happy to see we were finally able to secure the property that we needed,” he said.
Due to tightening seismic building standards by 2030 the current Jerold Phelps Community Hospital will have to close. The old facility would be more expensive to upgrade to fit the new standards than buying property and building an entirely new hospital, Rees said. The district had identified the CR Garberville site as the best for a new hospital because of existing roads and power and sewer lines.
“Any other place would cost us a lot more to put the infrastructure in,” Rees said.
But just because Jerold Phelps Community Hospital can’t be used as a hospital in 2030 and beyond doesn’t mean it’s entirely useless to the health care district, he said.
“We have a skilled nursing facility, a nursing home, in there,” Rees said.
And seismic standards for skilled nursing facilities are much less strict, he said.
“That’s what we’re looking at, keeping it there and possibly expanding,” Rees said.
In May, district voters shot down Measure W, an increased parcel tax to help with financing the construction of a new hospital, so the district is working on other avenues, he said.
“We need to secure funding for the new hospital in the next three to five years,” Rees said.
He added that inflation increases the total price tag of the new hospital by about $1 million every year.
“Since [Measure W] got voted down what we’re working on now is renewing the current assessment,” Rees said.
He said he hopes to have the parcel tax extension up for voter approval on the June ballot.
Humboldt County 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell didn’t return a call for comment by the publishing deadline. She previously told the Times-Standard that the county put the bid in because it has long wanted offices in the Southern Humboldt area for departments such as public health, public works and planning and building.
Rees said he’s willing to work with the county to figure out a way for the county to have such offices at the CR site.
“We’ve already had some talks about where and when we can get together. We need to all work together so we can prosper,” he said.
Rees said he also plans on working with community groups that use the theater at the CR site and with CR so educational opportunities can still be offered in Garberville.
“The [existing] building’s going to be preserves. We hope the playhouse and other people will continue to utilize the building,” he said. “We want to work with CR to make sure they still function down here.”
More information is available at shchd.org and redwoods.edu.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.