Clallam commissioners discuss hospital levy, wildfire planning

Joint meeting to be set up with city on operations building

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners covered the Olympic Medical Center’s levy lid lift, consultant proposals for a community wildfire protection plan and the proposed emergency operations center.

The three commissioners heard a request during Monday’s work session that they support Proposition 1, Olympic Medical Center’s levy lid lift, on the Aug. 6 primary ballot.

OMC CEO Darryl Wolfe presented some facts about the hospital and the levy.

“I’m not here to advocate, but I’m here to educate,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said OMC’s last levy lid lift occurred 16 years ago. Currently, the levy provides about $4.9 million to the hospital annually, accounting for about 2 percent of the hospital’s budget.

If passed, the levy lid lift would provide about $6.9 million more to the hospital to support what Wolfe described as “critically needed services.”

Wolfe said OMC’s priority is to provide service, rather than make a profit.

“We don’t turn anybody away,” Wolfe said. “Whether you pay or not.”

In 2023, OMC’s emergency room managed 26,200 visits. Wolfe said OMC’s clinics have more than 150,000 visits annually.

Wolfe said the levy would provide support for the hospital’s struggling economic state, but it won’t solve their economic problems.

“We’re at a really tough spot, and there’s no sugar coating that,” Wolfe said.

He said OMC, and other rural hospitals, need support at the federal level.

The commissioners expressed their support for OMC and the services it provides. They will decide at their July 16 regular meeting if they will lend their support to the proposition, after they hear an opposing viewpoint.

The commissioners also approved the recommendation from SWCA Environmental Consultants for the community wildfire protection plan (CWPP).

Diane Harvey, special assistant to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, said the CWPP has two primary goals: vegetative management and community education.

“There’s a lot of people who move here who don’t have any idea that we have serious wildfire threats,” Harvey said.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said the CWPP “is one of the most important topics we have.”

Harvey said SWCA Environmental Consultants was the favorite of the six bids they received.

SWCA bid $124,471 for the project — less than the $125,000 grant the county had secured for the project.

Although other bids were cheaper, Harvey said this was their preferred option due to SWCA’s expertise in doing community plans. Additionally, they have a lot of groundwork established because they just completed a job as Jefferson County’s CWPP consultant.

The commissioners approved Harvey to move forward with drafting a contract between the county and SWCA.

The commissioners also heard a request to set up a joint meeting with the Port Angeles City Council to discuss the proposed emergency operations center.

County Administrator Todd Mielke said the meeting is necessary so they can establish a framework of understanding to move forward.

Mielke recommended the meeting should occur this month due to looming deadlines.

“We have some extremely tight deadlines that we need to meet,” Mielke said. “We don’t have the luxury of waiting weeks or months to resolve some of these decisions if this project is going to be successful.”

Mielke said some elements of the construction agreement need to be finalized by Labor Day or there could be problems for the project’s timeline.

Mielke predicted the meeting will tackle four to six issues related to the emergency operations center. Some of the things they may discuss include figuring out what to do about the fire station, laying the groundwork for effective communication between the entities and defining the financial roles of each of the parties during the construction phase.

The commissioners all expressed their support.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a joint conversation about this,” Commissioner Mike French said. “It seems very timely for an update, and I’d love to make that happen.”

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Reporter Emma Maple can be reached by email at emma.maple@peninsuladailynews.com.

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