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Hundreds in Monte signed petition to support formation of hospital district

Despite vocal opposition to Montesano joining the proposed hospital district geared to save Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen, hundreds of Montesano-area residents showed support to the idea by putting their name on the official petition to get it on the August ballot, according to an analysis of public records conducted by The Vidette.

To get on the ballot, Community Hospital supporters gathered 3,159 signatures. Staff in the Auditor’s Office reviewed 2,239 of those signatures and found 1,616 valid signatures — dismissing several hundred for residents that didn’t live in the proposed boundaries, were not registered voters or whose addresses or signatures didn’t match what was on file — at which point they stopped reviewing them since only 1,502 signatures were required to be on the ballot.

Montesano and the beaches were part of the proposed hospital district because those areas were listed specifically on the petition.

The Vidette requested access to the petitions for review after the “certificate of sufficiency” was issued by the County Auditor’s Office. Following a 2010 state Supreme Court ruling involving signatures gathered for initiatives, all names put on petitions are subject to public inspection — including the petitions for the proposed hospital district.

The Vidette reviewed each of the hundreds of pages of signatures that were submitted to the county with a goal of determining where everyone who signed the signatures were from. Using two people to go through the pages, The Vidette spent an hour reviewing all of the signatures and addresses — including those who were not vetted by the Auditor’s Office, relying on addresses listed by the petitioners.

The Vidette found that out of 3,159 signatures, 213 people from the Montesano area signed the petition, 105 people from the North Beach area and 51 people from the South Beach area. There could be some errors in the reporting based on people that didn’t put the addresses down correctly.

Another way to look at it: 6.7 percent of those that signed the petition were from Montesano, yet the potential funding for the proposed hospital district from Satsop, Brady and Montesano make up 8 percent of the total valuation.

Using that same logic, just 3.3 percent of the total signatures on the petition were from the North Beach area, yet the total valuation of the proposed hospital district for Ocean Shores alone was about 21.6 percent — a clear distortion in the process.

Based on 2013 assessed values, a property tax of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value would garner about $2.5 million in annual revenue for the district, according to the Assessor’s Office. That works out to about $200,000 from Satsop, Brady and the Montesano areas and about $540,000 would come just from Ocean Shores.

The thousands of others that signed it were from the Aberdeen, Cosmopolis and Hoquiam areas — although there were a few dozen that signed it from out of there area completely, including Elma, Olympia and Pierce County. For convenience purposes, The Vidette’s analysis generally incorporates the Wishkah and Wynoochee Valleys as being from the Montesano area and those in Amanda Park, Neilton and Taholah as being from the North Beach area, even though residents there may differ on the inclusion.

Nonetheless, 213 people from the Montesano area put their name on the petition to support the hospital district — more than the several dozen people that have vocally spoken out about the boundaries.

Montesano City Councilman Tyler Trimble signed the petition, the review found.

“I felt that I just wanted to help the hospital, to get it on the ballot,” Trimble said. “If the people don’t want it, we’ll vote ‘no’ and move on. … As to whether Montesano should be in the district, I think there’s way too many questions at this point. I think it’s an issue the county commissioners should weigh in their decision of putting it on the ballot.”

Signatures from other Montesano council members weren’t found, likely because they didn’t sign the petition or their signature might have been missed by accident in the review process because it couldn’t be read. Many other public officials signed the petition, though, including Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney, County Auditor Vern Spatz, former county commissioner Dennis Morrisette, county commission candidate Vickie Raines and prosecutor candidate Katie Svoboda, the analysis found.