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Tax measure could help replace Cambria's aging health care facility 

After 65 years, Cambria's ambulance station and health care facility is in desperate need of renovation.

Asbestos coupled with the lack of an ambulance garage, emergency service responders sleeping in exam rooms, and a lack of fuel supply has incentivized the Cambria Community Healthcare District's board of trustees to do something about it. The district's solution comes in the form of an $8.5 million bond measure appearing on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Several residents have submitted letters of opposition to the measure, insisting that the necessary upgrades can be done for less than $8.5 million. However, Healthcare District board President Cecilia Montalvo says that while renovations would have cost slightly more than an estimated $2 million, simply making repairs wouldn't meet the district's long-term needs.

Montalvo said that any time you start making improvements, there are unanticipated costs. If you open up a wall to clear out asbestos, she said as an example, you need to bring electrical work up to code.

"We would immediately trigger the need to have fire sprinklers in the building," she said. "Those additional costs that would trigger based on those repairs are not included in that number."

The Cambria Healthcare District has faced a tumultuous couple of years. The district's administrator and longtime paramedic/operations manager resigned in 2021. Earlier this year, the district had to ask the public for help to fundraise money for a new ambulance.

"We're not rolling in money here at the district, but this is a big project and we need to think about the long-term future, not not the next-year future," Montalvo said. "How to have a building that will survive for decades to come."

On Oct. 9, residents were able to learn more about the measure from several Healthcare District board members. At the meeting, resident Mark Kantor said he felt the measure was expensive from a consumer point of view even if it is one of the best options for the community to get the best bang for its buck.

"It's not a particularly expensive county building, and we've gotten 65 years of use out of an unplanned building that wasn't well put together," Kantor said. "We expect to get pretty close to that, if not more, from something that is well thought out and designed to be specifically used by ambulances serving the local community."

If passed by a two-thirds majority vote, the measure would collect tax until fiscal year 2053-54.

Revenue brought in by the measure would enable the district to construct a new garage for ambulances, add a fuel station, and ensure that the new building can safely store medication and medical equipment, and improve response times. While opponents of the measure have argued that a new building will not improve response time nor increase effectiveness of medical storage, Montalvo doesn't necessarily agree.

"I don't think anybody is arguing that we don't have a spot currently where medications can be stored," she said. "Having a space, albeit small, that is dedicated to the storage and security medication will absolutely make it both safe—safer in terms of security—but also of higher quality in terms of the preservation of medication."

While Kantor understands why the measure is facing opposition, he still supports it because he said "there are some things that are worth your while as a taxpayer."

"I understand that there's certainly going to be a certain number of people who are never going to vote to increase their own taxes," Kantor said. "I understand that point of view. I wish they would get more involved and figure out what else could be done if they don't want to do it through taxes."

Readers Poll

Do you think the SLO County Board of Supervisors should have gone against their policy that states funding for independent special districts should not result in a net fiscal loss to the county?

  • A. Yes, the housing and job opportunity the Dana Reserve is bringing is important
  • B. No, it's giving special privileges to the Nipomo Community Services District
  • C. I trust them, they know what's best for the county
  • D. What's going on?

View Results

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