EKHCD consultant discusses upcoming public engagement process
Ridgecrest Regional Hospital–
The East Kern Health Care District (EKHCD ) Board of Directors discussed the current endeavor to annex the Ridgecrest region into its borders at the Jan. 16 meeting in California City.
In December, the board and Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) announced that they had jointly submitted a letter to the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) that detailed their intent to include the Ridgecrest community in the existing healthcare district.
RRH, which has been experiencing distress relating to provider shortages and inadequate revenue reimbursements, has been exploring the annexation in order to qualify for new funding sources. Both RRH and EKHCD have employed consultants to navigate the transition. LAFCO, which oversees special districts, has been involved to ensure that the annexation meets all legal and ethical requirements of a government agency.
“We want to be as transparent as we can,” said Dr. Steven Goodwin of Turning-West, the firm hired by EKHCD. He told the Board that he has been in contact with Pritchard and Proctor, the RRH consultant, to nail down the timeline of milestones required to complete the annexation process.
“Our role at Turning-West is to lead the community-engagement process,” said Goodwin.
That effort includes reaching out to key stakeholders to identify interest, concerns, ideas, and other issues of public sentiment surrounding the annexation. After Turning-West gathers information from stakeholders, they will follow-up with public agencies to ensure that they have the answers to those questions.
Once it becomes clear that EKHCD and RRH have the answers they need to appropriately educate and respond to public concerns, they will schedule a series of public information meetings.
“There will be at least two public notices via the newspaper, separated by at least a week or so between, as well as notices at the hospital, your board meeting room, and the public library,” said Goodwin.
Following the community-engagement process, the groups will establish shared strategies and goals that will be submitted with the LAFCO application for final approval.
Anyone who owns property in the region within the proposed annexation will have a notice mailed to them so that they can express support or opposition at a protest hearing.
The timing of public hearings is not yet known, since both organizations are still waiting to establish clarity on issues related to the annexation — including representation, tax implications, and more.
“There are a lot of variables here, but we are moving along with all due haste,” said Goodwin. “We will give you updates as soon as we know them.”