Tulare Local Health Care District leaders decided Monday to ask voters to approve a $55 million bond measure to finish a stalled hospital project that is roiling the community.
The five-member district board voted unanimously to call for a mail-in election. Ballots will be sent to voters Aug. 1 and must be postmarked by Aug. 30.
A two-thirds yes vote of returned ballots is required to pass the measure.
Put differently, that’s an average of $2.49 per month per $100,000 assessed valuation, or $3.74 per month per average house in Tulare, according to the district.
The proposed general obligation bond would raise money to finish the hospital tower project; build a larger, earthquake-safe emergency department and labor and delivery suites; and refinance outstanding debt related to earlier construction.
Construction on the tower mostly stopped two years ago. The walls are up and the concrete floors poured, but the space is unfinished.
Another bond measure is a waste of taxpayer money, in my opinion.
Alberto Aguilar, Tulare
Members of the public spoke for and against the bond at Monday’s board meeting at Evolutions gym, owned by the health care district.
“It seems absolutely ludicrous to me that someone would come to the voters for a $55 million bond before they’ve accounted for the first $85 million,” said John Hobbs of Tulare, a member of the 2015-16 Tulare County Grand Jury that issued the report.
Proposed tax per month per average house in Tulare
But at least three audits have been done showing the money was spent on construction-related items, board members said.
“This concept that the money has disappeared is completely wrong,” said board member Parmod Kumar, a physician.
Too many questions about the project remain unanswered due to a “lack of transparency” by the hospital, said Alberto Aguilar of Tulare.
“Another bond measure is a waste of taxpayer money, in my opinion,” he said.
Let’s complete our tower for the good of the community.
Mark Watte, Tulare
Farmer Mark Watte of Tulare said the community needs a hospital.
“Imagine a community without a vibrant, viable hospital,” he said. “If you don’t complete our tower in a relatively short amount of time, we’re not going to have it. Let’s complete our tower for the good of the community.”
The Kaweah Delta Health Care District in Visalia also is having a bond election. Measure H proposes $327 million in general obligation bonds to build a hospital that meets mandated earthquake standards. Ballots are due by 8 p.m. today.