The Grays Harbor County Commission approved funding worth almost $1.2 million over the next 10 years to help four economic development projects.
The city of Montesano had requested some of the funds go to build medical facilities, but that project was not approved.
Last summer, city officials had discussed leaving Grays County Hospital District 2, which operates Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen, to join Hospital District 1, which runs Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma. Part of that move would be the opening of a family medicine residency clinic in the city. That deal did not move beyond talks. Now Montesano is considering building the facilities for a clinic in an effort to draw more medical providers to the area.
By a 2-1 vote during the commission meeting Tuesday, Sept. 3, the Commission agreed with the Economic Development Fund Advisory Committee’s recommendation to give:
• $97,000 to Greater Grays Harbor Inc. to fund its staff.
• $400,000 over 10 years for work on the Pacific Beach Booster Station and Reservoir.
• $300,000 for the city of Aberdeen’s Fry Creek Pump Station Complex.
• $400,000 for a flood protection project along Keys Road near Satsop.
The funds approved by the commissioners come from a sales tax collection of 0.09 percent, money collected go toward economic development projects. An advisory committee reviews applications and makes recommendations to the commission, which has the final say. The seven member advisory committee includes two people from each commission district and one representative from the Port of Grays Harbor.
Commissioner Wes Cormier gave the dissenting vote. He believes the Commission should give better direction to the advisory committee on how the funds should be used. For instance, he was skeptical that the Keys Road project qualified.
“That’s more flood authority type of thing. That’s getting into disaster preparation,” he said.
“I don’t think flood protection is economic development. … So I don’t think we should be using these funds for that.”
He does believe the city of Montesano applying for funds to build a clinic qualifies as economic development, though he is against cities taking the role of landlord in that manner.
“What I don’t like about the clinic, and I told the mayor this, is that I don’t think cities should be involved particularly in these types of clinics. I just don’t think it’s their role,” he said. “However, it is economic development, so I think it qualifies for funding. It wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but it would be on my list for funding.”
Though the project lacked backing by advisory board, Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel made her case to the commissioners to reconsider funding the clinic. The project also generated objections from the county’s legal team
“We believe, from an economic development perspective, that it helps us with a different industry that we’re trying to create in the city of Montesano, which is a medical-based industry,” she said. “… The estimated amount of jobs that we are looking at is 85 to 100 jobs within the city.”
If the issue the county’s legal team objects to can be worked out, Commissioner Randy Ross says he would back funds for Montesano’s clinic and other projects.
“I would like to see that some of the projects, especially Mayor Samuel’s project, be resubmitted later to see if it can be developed so it can be approved according to what our legal counsel says,” he said.
Commissioner Vickie Raines, said it was likely there would be some funding available for a clinic in Monte if the objections can be resolved.
“There is funding remaining in the fund for 2020 to approve that request if we can get over that hurdle,” she said.