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Hearing looks at new hospital plan Hospital CEO:Non-profit has ‘great potential’

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Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District may have found a new way to pay for its new hospital campus at the I-90 interchange with Snoqualmie Parkway.

Hospital officials will present their new plan to residents at a public hearing, set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at Snoqualmie Middle School.

“This is not just about the hospital; this is about our entire community,” said Hospital Administrator and CEO Rodger McCollum. “We want the public to come and participate.”

Officials from the city of Snoqualmie, Bellevue Community College, and other potential partners will attend. Unlike a regular board meeting, the public hearing will give residents an opportunity to speak or ask questions, and panel members will be able to respond.

Non-profit partnership

The district is now proposing to fund its new campus, which could include a branch campus of Bellevue Community College, senior care, a children’s early learning center and hotel lodging, through a partnership with a non-profit organization to use tax-exempt financing.

The hospital would enter into a lease with the National Development Council (NDC), a non-profit community and economic development organization, which would hold the title to the land.

The NDC would issue some $50 million in tax exempt bonds, “meaning we get a very low interest rate,” McCollum said, and contract with the developer. The hospital would not pay rent until it occupies the building. Lease payments by the hospital cover the debt service. When the bond is paid, the title would go to the hospital.

McCollum called the new plan a great opportunity.

“This is a perfect situation for us and for them,” he said. “We think it has great potential to answer a lot of questions.”

An arrangement with the NDC allows the district to use money from the sale of the old campus to the tribe to pay off all debt, build a reserve and pledge revenues from taxes and critical access to the new facility.

However, before the hospital can proceed with the NDC deal, it needs to settle lingering questions on development rights with King County.

“They have to have certainty,” McCollum said. “That’s why this whole county thing has knocked us for a loop.

“We know we’ll be able to build a hospital,” he added. “We just don’t know how much it’s going to cost and what else we can decide to do.”

Development rights

King County’s controversial Transfer of Development Rights, (TDR) program, which would require the district to set aside four acres from development for every acre they plan to use, will be addressed at the public hearing. McCollum said the district is working to come up with a compromise with the county, which would allow the project to move forward.

Hospital officials attended all of the public hearings, held this spring by the King County Council’s growth management committee.

“We’ve had someone talking about how bad this is for public policy,” McCollum said, “to hold a public entity to the same restrictions and constraints that a developer would be. The question is, can we use public money to pay for private development rights?”

The King County Council will vote on the 2008 comprehensive plan amendments, which include the new development rights plan, in September.

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