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Let the voters decide health district annexation

On Monday, Curry Health District officials will ask the Brookings City Council to support a measure on the May 2011 ballot asking voters to annex the city into the district — and subsequently pay a percentage of property taxes to support it.

... OK, now that many of you have had the expected “Never!” knee-jerk reaction, we suggest you attend the 4 p.m. city council workshop on Monday and actually listen to and consider the facts surrounding the annexation proposal.

Remember: This is only about putting the measure on the ballot for the city’s registered voters — not the city council or the health district — to decide.

While some of Curry County’s residents live within the health district boundaries, residents in Brookings, Harbor, parts of Pistol River, and the area north of Port Orford do not. In fact, most of the health district’s patients live in Brookings-Harbor.

Under Oregon law, voters  residing in and outside of the current health district must both be given the opportunity to vote on annexation. In order to do this, the municipal governments of those areas outside the district — the Brookings City Council in this case — must pass a resolution to allow the ballot measure.

We support such a resolution, knowing there will be ample opportunities to hear arguments for and against it before votes are cast next May.

Yes, annexation to the health district comes with a cost: 74 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value per year, or $148 per year for a $200,000 house.

Yes, there is a slight chance the state won’t approve the district’s application to operate a 24-hour emergency room in Brookings, which is currently under construction. However, the health district is confident it will receive such approval. Better yet, the city of Brookings has included language in its resolution specifically requiring the district to operate a 24-hour emergency room.

Annexation to the health district has its benefits:

New members will have a say in health district matters, in particular the operation of the new Brookings clinic, and the opportunity to have elected representatives on the health district board.

Perhaps more important, annexation to the health district will ensure that everyone is paying their fair share for services and facilities used by all.

Let’s have an honest debate and a public vote. The city council should put the health district annexation on the ballot.

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