A snapshot of some of dozens of city emails from a two-week period shows that the public has a lot more questions and opinions about the Harrison Medical Center purchase for a police station-court building than previously reported.
The emails were sent to the Bainbridge Island Review as a result of a public records request.
Citizen Doug Rauh’s email calls the city’s and council’s handling of the issue a “financial disaster.” He says city leaders “have not acted in the best interest of Islanders” and has actually been “sabotaged” by them.
Now-Mayor Rasham Nassar’s email asks what medical equipment was purchased, along with HMC, for $9.75 million. The equipment certainly wasn’t needed for a police-court facility, but was part of the purchase agreement. Much of that equipment went back to HMC or other healthcare entities, otherwise the city could have had to pay to demolish them.
Former Mayor Leslie Schneider received an email from citizen Cindy Anderson that says Schneider made the best decision she could given the information she was given. But Anderson questions the information given from people Schneider trusted. “I think you and the public were duped,” with things like inflated estimates, Anderson’s email says. She also called it a “flat-out lie” when they were told police stations are more expensive because of stricter requirements.
In a reply to Anderson Schneider says she stands by her decision. She’s the only member of the current council who actually voted for the Harrison property to become the police-court facility because it was the cheapest option. She says building from scratch can often run into a lot of issues. She says using an existing building can save costs.
Anderson replied to that saying if mistakes were made the council needs to come clean about them and the project re-evaluated.
In a draft email, former police chief Matthew Hamner says he favors a police station at Highway 305 and Madison for a variety of reasons. That was the Fire Station 21 site. The email reportedly was not sent because his boss said department heads cannot take such stands.
Donald J. Roose, founder and chairman of Bainbridge Senior Living, which is located next to the HMC, says in an email to Councilmember Christy Carr that a police station doesn’t belong next to a senior center. He lists a number of reasons, and says the “council made a bad decision by not selecting” a nearby property.
In an email from Councilmember Michael Pollock to the council, he asks a number of questions, including why by all the equipment and then give it back, along with why hasn’t this process been better explained to the public.
Finally, Rauh sends another email that asks why the city doesn’t try to pay off the facility quicker, which could save millions of dollars.
Following are more details from the emails:
Rauh’s email to Pollock and Nassar, consists of a timeline: “In 2000 Islanders purchased the Suzuki property for a police/court facility.
“In 2011 Council discussed moving the court to Poulsbo to help pay for their new city hall.
“In 2014 Council indicated they did not want to build a police/court facility on the Suzuki property that Islanders had paid for with their property tax. Instead, Council wanted to sell the property and put the money into the General Fund (like a slush fund for Council). The repurposing of Islanders property tax is legal but at the cost of trust between Islanders and their Council.
“In 2015 Mackenzie estimated the police portion of a combined police/fire facility would cost less than $7,600,000 …
“In 2015 the Council put a contaminated site on the ballot for a police station. (It failed badly).
“In 2018 Council voted to design a police station for property they didn’t own and couldn’t buy.
“In 2019 Council sells ($8 million in) councilmanic bonds for purchase of Harrison in order to avoid vote by Islanders.
“Looking at how Council’s has conducted Island business as it pertains to acquiring a new police station the historic trail is nothing but a financial disaster. In my opinion the Council(s), city manager(s) and staff have not acted in the best interest of Islanders … For the last 20 years any attempt at building a standalone police facility on city owned land has been sabotaged by Council(s), city manager(s) and staff.
“To regain trust would require honesty, transparency and a two-way conversation between those that pay the taxes and those that spend the tax revenue.
“Put the question on the upcoming Island Survey as to how Islanders feel about converting the Harrison Clinic into a police/court facility would be a start.”
Nassar asks what medical equipment was purchased, along with the building.
All furniture including: 20 medical exam/treatment beds, all office and treatment room chairs, kitchen and breakroom furniture, a large x-ray machine, medical laboratory equipment including several refrigerators, all computer equipment including servers and medical gas cylinders. All of those items went to other Harrison facilities, including the new location on Bainbridge Island.
Also, Jefferson Healthcare salvaged the following materials from the building: 41 sliding treatment room doors, 38 3’x6’ nursing station cubicles, 38 full-size metal lockers, 1 medical vacuum compressor and 1 medical gas manifold.
CHI salvaged the following: 45 wood door locksets, 5 small treatment room sinks and 5 treatment room cabinets
The city says all of this would have been demolished otherwise.
Anderson’s email to Schneider says: “When the City Council voted to buy the building, the public wasn’t provided with a copy of the appraisals or you’d have heard all this much sooner …
“Remember, the taxpayers paid cash, under the direction of the City Manager, with the Council’s approval. There was no lender involved to provide a reality check for the Council … To be clear, I’m not accusing you of any wrongdoing. I have no doubt that you made the best decision you could based on the information you were given by people you trusted. In other words, you could only be as good as the information you were given.
“As I recall, City Manager Schulze was the person who first brought the Harrison project to the attention of the Council sometime in 2017 … I think you and the public were duped.
“For example, I remember being told, during a Council presentation, that one of the reasons a police facility was so expensive to build was because of the stricter building requirements for such projects. That was a flat out lie.
“I wrote the Council an email warning them of this misrepresentation …”
“The prior connection between Coates and Harrison leads me to speculate that you may have been duped with inflated estimates for earlier projects to drive you toward the Harrison building. As I recall, the earliest proposal even had a state of the art shooting range, that would have been the envy of every other agency in surrounding counties, included in the price.
“In conclusion, sometimes you make a decision that, while at the time seemed right, turns out to be wrong. It seems to me that when this happens, you do the wise thing and re-evaluate the situation …
“Some on the council might wish this to be pushed under the rug. I hope you aren’t one of them.”
Schneider’s email to Anderson in response says: “I stand by my decision to purchase Harrison, which had a project cost $15 million CHEAPER than the only other option rated high enough by council to get a full cost estimate (the Coultas property). Other options were shot down by council before my time, I think primarily because they would have been sited in a residential zone or caused too many trees to be cut down. I never supported redeveloping the existing police station because of the cost, and it would have required a temporary relocation of the police department. I think there is a higher and better use for that precious space by the ferry.
“Additionally, my own experience with developing cohousing in Seattle made me aware of how many challenges are unknown when starting a building from the ground up. On Bainbridge, the high cost of stormwater management is one example; it often is in the multi-millions (the Day Road roundabout project is not moving forward because of stormwater challenges and costs). By retrofitting an existing building, it limited such risks. And in the case of Harrison, it also forced the police and court requirements to get trimmed down in order to fit the current design, which also saved costs.”
Anderson’s response to the former mayor says: Council members Kol Medina, Joe Deets and Sarah Blossom voted to move forward with an evaluation of the Harrison site … Ron Peltier and Rasham Nassar suggested that the current process be halted and a citizen committee appointed to help the City choose a site. The vote was 3-2 in favor of continuing with the current process. You weren’t at that meeting.”
“This should not be swept under the rug … If mistakes were made, they should be admitted and the current project re-evaluated. Perhaps the building can be sold.”
Former police chief Matthew Hamner says in 2014: “The sites under consideration for new Police facilities share many similarities, including central location, proximity to downtown Winslow, and access to public transportation. Either site could function satisfactorily in responding to the service call patterns the department manages today and expects to face in the future, however it is my opinion that the Madison/305 site is a better location for access, quicker response, and the benefit of being co-located with the fire for response to events that require both agencies.
“It is my opinion and recommendation that we locate the new police facility at 305/Madison.”
Roose’s email to Carr says: “The whole idea of unwinding the Harrison/Police” headquarters deal “is ugly at best. But I believe there can be an overall win for everyone by finding an appropriate use for the Harrison building, thus saving the COBI” the $9 million and “spending those dollars on an appropriate site.”
“In my 50-year development career I’ve learned that you must design a facility for a purpose as opposed to remodeling a medical facility.”
In another email to Carr, Roose says HMC is a “Totally inappropriate” location for a police-court facility, next to a senior center. Also, it doesn’t have quick access to Highway 305, parking is insufficient and a two-story structure does not meet the operational needs of a police force.
He added there is a “far superior location right across highway 305 with more property, better road access and considerably less expensive. City Council made a bad decision by not selecting that property.
In Pollock’s email to the council, he asks: Why the rush to buy Harrison Medical Center? Why buy all the equipment then basically give it back to them and other medical facilities? Why were other locations turned away with no explanation to the public? Kol Medina, who was mayor at the time, had potential conflict of interest because he had professional contacts with members of HMC.
Another from Rauh
Rauh says the council should put it to a vote of the people. He also says the city should follow the example of Moscow, ID and pay loans off in 10 years instead of 20. He says Moscow saved $2 million by doing that. “Reducing financing costs should be council’s first priority,” he says. He also sent the city many other emails showing police stations across the country being built at better prices than in BI. He also sent one about stormwater retention being an issue with the property.