EDITOR’S NOTE: A letter to the editor yesterday raised concerns about a recent Nehalem Bay Health District meeting and the rescinding of a sale of property for the local Food Bank. NBHD responded quickly – emphasizing their statement below … “addresses the questions and comments that Barbara (McLaughlin) has raised as well. Nehalem Bay Health District, (NBHD) is still committed to the statement that was highlighted, an agreement to house the North County Food Bank on the District property in the short and long term, The Food Bank has a home in the District Office Building (The Old Hospital) for as long as they wish. The District has delayed and will continue to delay the planned demolition of the building for the sole purpose of allowing the Food Bank to have a facility until their new building is completed. All of our planning includes the incorporation of the Food Bank’s new building and for it to be located on NBHD property. “
(Wheeler) – Due to significant changes in circumstances and the ongoing need to evaluate and, if possible, develop housing for health care workers, the board of the Nehalem Bay Health District has decided not to proceed with the sale and transfer of district property to the North County Food Bank.
The health district emphasizes it will continue to provide a home for the Food Bank until a decision can be made about a location for a new facility.
The board made the decision following much deliberation, including numerous meetings with Food Bank board members, during a public meeting on January 13, 2022. The health district and the Food Bank had entered into a sale agreement for a parcel of district-owned property in June 2020.
In making the difficult decision board members stressed:
- The decision to not execute the sale agreement came about because of dramatically changed conditions since June 2020, including the district’s acquisition of a new property just off Highway 101 in Wheeler. This new property has been identified by the district as a suitable and improved site for a new primary health care center and pharmacy. Prior to the property acquisition in the summer of 2021, a new health center and pharmacy was envisioned on property currently occupied by the old Wheeler hospital.
- The property acquisition decision created the opportunity to potentially repurpose the old hospital site into community-appropriate housing that could help alleviate the critical shortage of community housing for health care workers, among others. Siting the Food Bank facility without thoroughly investigating how housing might be incorporated on the district’s property could forestall options and make housing development more difficult to finance and site.
- The district values its ongoing relationship with the Food Bank and has identified the Food Bank’s role addressing food security as a critical determinant of public health. The board extended its genuine thanks to members of the Food Bank board for their understanding of the district’s need to maximize the use of its property in Wheeler to accomplish the greatest good for the community.
- The health district board pledged to continue to work with the Food Bank to find a solution to the need for a new food bank facility, which is currently housed in the old Wheeler hospital.
The health district will continue to work on plans for the new health center/pharmacy and community-appropriate housing in close consultation with the city of Wheeler and with a commitment to engage the community in its vision going forward.