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Ballots for new hospital mailed to voters next week

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Taxpayers will finally get to vote on plans for a brand-new Peninsula Medical Center, with special mail-in ballots set to hit homes early next week.

Mark Numainville, a county elections officer, said ballots for the hospital vote, Measure V, are set to go out on Monday to the 101,000 registered voters in the Peninsula Health Care District, which includes Burlingame, San Mateo, Millbrae, San Bruno and parts of Foster City and South San Francisco. Voters have until Aug. 29 to return their ballots by mail or in person, but should mail them by Aug. 22 to make sure the votes arrive on time.

Mills-Peninsula Health Services, which runs the Peninsula Medical Center, wants to build a state-of-the-art, $488 million hospital to replace the Burlingame hospital because the current facility doesn’t meet state seismic regulations.

Construction can’t begin on the hospital — which sits on land owned by the Peninsula Health Care District, a public entity — until the voters give the OK.

Mills-Peninsula, an arm of Sutter Health, is funding the project and the election. Construction is slated to begin in the fall, and officials are anxious to keep things on track as building costs continue to climb. The project should be finished by mid-2010.

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Hospital higher-ups in May released a list of potential cuts and items to be deferred should the project costs continue to climb, including nonessential items such as a helipad, fountain, several conference rooms and three of the 10 operating rooms.

The election is the last hurdle in a long public process that saw a lawsuit, construction cost increases, changes in the proposal from Mills-Peninsula and difficulty in finding board members without conflicts of interest.

The district and Mills-Peninsula agreed on a 50-year lease, where Mills-Peninsula pays the district $1.5 million per year in rent for 21 acres of land. The hospital reverts back to the district at the end of the lease.

Dan Andersen with Peninsula Guardians, a nonprofit watchdog group for the hospital project, said that though he will likely vote for the new hospital, he remains unhappy with the current lease agreement.

“We want to make sure this is taxpayer-controlled, not Sutter-controlled,” Andersen said.

District board member Rick Navarro said that while the lease isn’t perfect, it still presents a good deal for taxpayers. He said keeping tabs on hospital operations is one of the board’s top priorities.

tramroop@examiner.com

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