Resolution seeks to overturn plans to dissolve health district

County, St. Helens differ on ideas for Millard Road land
by: Archive photo Millard Road property

The Columbia Health District board filed a resolution Monday with the Columbia County Clerk's Office that seeks to rescind portions of a dissolution plan assembled by the prior health district board.

The resolution's intention would be to rename trustees currently overseeing asset dispersal for the now-dissolved district and to redefine how the Millard Road property, formerly the target site of the defunct Columbia River Community Hospital project, would be managed.

The resolution calls for sale of the Millard Road property as a mechanism for establishing tax credits for residents within the hospital tax district.

Tammy Maygra, CHD board chair, said it is the board's belief the former health district board usurped the current board's authority when it approved a dissolution plan naming the county commissioners as trustees, and then concealed that plan from the incoming board.

'We just don't think it was done correctly, and we're just trying to do what is right by the voters,' Maygra said Tuesday about the resolution. At its core, Maygra and the current board argue Oregon law prohibits naming a board of trustees to manage dissolution of a special district prior to the vote to dissolve that district.

It is unclear if that occurred in this case, however.

The resolution comes nearly three months after hospital tax district residents on Sept. 20 overwhelming voted to dissolve the health district. The dissolution plan was known and available to Maygra and the board when the September vote occurred, and was a topic that had been written about in The Spotlight.

Also, the current board - if it even exists as such today, considering the district has been dissolved - approved a resolution naming the county commissioners as the board of trustees for the district soon after the dissolution vote, Maygra said. It also voted to accept the vote and dissolve the district.

'Yes we did [name the commissioners as trustees],' Maygra said. 'But we did it on advice that wasn't correct.' She said an attorney with the Special District's Association of Oregon provided the advice. She said the legitimacy of the resolution should be left to a judge to decide. The resolution identifies business owners Brady Preheim, of Preheim Computers in Scappoose, and Joe Cason of Columbia Hearing Center in St. Helens, as the new trustees.

'If it has to go to a judge, and even if he rules against us, then that's settled because at least we've tried to do something right,' she said.

What will become of Millard Road?

The resolution filing comes at a time when distribution of the health district's assets, specifically the 8.9-acre Millard Road property, is coming under scrutiny. Today, the Columbia County commissioners, acting as the board of trustees, is expected to discuss CHD assets, including the property.

When a district is dissolved, property that had been controlled by that district defaults back to the municipality where it is located, according to Oregon law. In this case, the Millard Road property would go to the city of St. Helens.

In fact, a St. Helens Parks Commission agenda for the Nov. 21 meeting lists the Millard Road property as a discussion item, presumably for consideration as possible city park space. The city already owns land adjacent and north of the former hospital site, though it has limited access and considerable wetland space.

Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde said he disagrees with what he perceives is the city's intention to use the Millard Road property as park space considering taxpayers from Scappoose to Rainier provided funds to purchase the land.

'I don't think it's appropriate that the property should be in the hands of a few when it was paid for by the many,' Hyde said. He said he instead favors sale of the property and use of any resultant funds for improving public health services.

'That's really what we should be doing with it,' he said.