Avalon voters favor Measure H, approving cross channel and harbor mooring tax

The special transportation tax will begin in 2022 and will help fund the replacement of the Catalina Island Medical Center (CIMC).

AVALON—Avalon voters in November voted in favor of a revised measure proposing a tax on cross channel passengers and harbor moorings to help fund the replacement of the Catalina Island Medical Center (CIMC). The initiative, Measure H, appeared on the Nov. 3 ballot and passed with 71 percent of voters in favor, according to uncertified results.

“We’re just excited that the community understands the importance of health care on the island and the future of health care on the island and just came out in droves to support it,” Catalina Island Medical Center Foundation Board of Directors member Shannon Hill said.

The measure will impose a $1 per day, per vessel visitor fee for those using harbor moorings. It will also place a fee on passengers on ferries, cruise ships and aircrafts with that fee phased in, starting at 50 cents round trip in 2022, increasing to $1 round trip in 2023 and capping at $2 round trip in 2024. Due to the current economic climate, the tax won’t start until 2022.

The measure also includes a sunset clause, stating the special tax would end in 40 years or whenever the construction costs are paid off, whichever happens sooner.

“The island doesn’t only take care of its residents, it’s also got a huge responsibility to take care of the people who visit the island,” Catalina Island Medical Center Foundation Chief Communications & Development Officer Tina Minh said.

CIMC must build a new hospital in order to comply with the California Hospital Association Seismic Safety mandate, whereby all California hospitals must operate from facilities that are deemed earthquake-safe by 2030, or be ordered to close. Hill said they are not able to retrofit the current hospital because the cost would be too high and there’s not enough space to do it. Should CIMC not meet the 2030 deadline, the medical center would be required to shut down.

Minh said they have a lot of catching up do to comply with the mandate, which was set in 1994.

“So much of what we want to accomplish as an organization, especially from a philanthropic perspective, so much of that rests on the passage of Measure H so it was really a sigh of relief,” Minh said.

The new facility will be built on 2.5 acres near Quail Canyon donated by Catalina Island Company in 2019. According to CIMC, the new facility will provide more space to meet the needs of the island, whose population and number of visitors have quadrupled since the hospital opened in 1960.

Plans for the new hospital include an improved emergency room design and new services, including mammography, infusion therapy for cancer, expanded physical and occupational therapy, inpatient care, additional visiting specialists, colonoscopies, outpatient orthopedics, and cataract removals.

A recent hospital replacement study conducted by CIMC analyzed the patterns of where patients with an Avalon zip code of 90704 go to receive care. It showed that CIMC captures approximately 15 percent of the total healthcare dollars, meaning 85 percent of all health care dollars are spent on the mainland. Some individuals on a Catalina Island discussion Facebook group said that was due to the hospital not accepting their health insurance.

The special transportation tax is just one part of the fundraising effort for the new facility, CIMC will also rely donors to raise enough to make the new medical center a reality, which is what Minh said they will be focusing on next.

“We want to create an affinity, engagement and loyalty to our organization and to the island in hopes that translates into philanthropy,” Minh said.

Those interested in learning more about CIMC or getting involved can visit cimcfoundation.org/champion/.

“You need to build an infrastructure and a pipeline of support when it comes to philanthropy and things like that don’t happen overnight and that’s really what’s next,” Minh said.

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