More questions than answers

The community meeting on the closure of the Assisted Living in Tonasket probably resulted in more questions than answers. It certainly gave those in attendance in the Oroville High School Commons something to think about.

Tuesday there were hearings on whether a petition brought by Danny Gratrix and Rosa Snider for a recall and an request for a temporary injunction stopping the hospital from closing at the end of the month. While the injunction was apparently denied, the petition to hold a recall of all the hospital commissioners was withdrawn, according to Snider. She said it was hard going up against the hospital which had its own publicly-funded lawyer. She said the deputy prosecutor didn’t help matters by joking with the hospital’s attorney and saying that the petition didn’t meet the statute. Fearing that proceeding would ruin their chances at rewriting the petition to meet the statute, Gratix and Snider withdrew it, she says.

Pouring salt on the wounds of the Concerned Citizens for Tonasket Assisted Living, Mike Howe, attorney for the hospital district requested and was awarded attorney’s fees and reimbursement for the cost of all the hospital administrators and the three commissioners that attended the hearing, according to Snider. She thinks that this is a form of “corporate welfare” because the public pays for the attorney fees and for the administrators’ time anyway. However, if the group that requested the injunction doesn’t pay, who does? The taxpayers do.

We’re not sure of all the facts on why an Okanogan County Superior Court Judge denied the injunction, but plan on following up next week when it isn’t so close to deadline. We inserted the little article on page one, but we realize there’s more to the story and hope to have something online soon.

One of the biggest takeaways from the Oroville meeting is the claim that the top nine salaried employees have received a combined $288,018 worth of pay increases in the last two years. That’s a lot while the hospital district is still struggling to pay off in the neighborhood of $2 million in warrants to the county. The CEO/Administrator saw her salary increase from $130,208 to $160,160 dollars, an increase of nearly $30,000 a year. And while the median household income, according to the 2010 census was $47,000, many people in the county would be happy to just be earning an annual income of what the CEO got in raises in the last two years.

Snider said that attorney Howe said that the numbers are incorrect. Snider wonders how they can be when she says opponents of the assisted living’s closure got the figures from the hospital district through Public Records requests.

Another question that was raised concerned whether Maintenance and Operation’s Bond Levy money is going toward making payments on the combined Assisted Living Bonds. The group fighting the closure says that’s what the State Auditor says it should be going toward. They claim that if that was being done, a seven-year loss of $821,000 would have actually been only $18,270 over seven years – that’s about $2,600 a year or a few bake sales.

The question is, whose figures are right those fighting the closure or those who say they’re protecting the hospital district from all going under? It looks like round one went to the commissioners and the administrator last Tuesday. Are the opponents of the closure going to fight on? We think they might have the people behind them.