Trios Health leaders took a major step Thursday toward selling about 2,300 acres of land south of Kennewick.
The Kennewick Public Hospital District board approved a resolution declaring the property to be surplus and authorizing it to be listed and sold.
The vote was unanimous. The land is east of Highway 395, near Owens and Locust Grove roads.
Chuck Barnes, executive director of support service, told the Herald he’s not sure how much sale of the land could bring in — that will depend on the market.
It was left to the district in the 1950s, Barnes said, noting it was actively farmed for years but currently is out of production as part of a federal land conservation program.
The surplus action doesn’t mean the land will be sold right away, Barnes said.
“We have to decide whether it makes more sense to sell it as one big parcel or if there are parts of it that would be more desirable to pair off and sell separately,” he said. “We just thought it was an appropriate time to start the process.”
The hospital district, which has been dealing with a cash crunch that led to a round of layoffs, also got good news this week about a transaction that should mean a $6 million infusion into the district’s coffers.
The district sold about 5,400 acres of land to Easterday Farms, but a water right for the land was held up in a legal challenge. However, conservationists this week said they won’t appeal a revised water right issued by the state Department of Ecology.
“It’s great news. We’ve been working on it, actively, now since 2011 — the sale of the land and the water permit,” said Vic Johnson, board member. “I’m tickled to death with the result.”
Trios Health CEO Glen Marshall has said delays in finalizing the sales of about $8.5 million in district assets, including the water right, have contributed to the district’s tight cash position. The district’s 2015 budget isn’t dependent on the sales going through, but they would help, Marshall has said.
Late last month, Marshall announced pending layoffs. Twenty-three management and clerical support positions were cut, and another 13 positions were affected by some changes in service, although most of those employees were to be able to apply for other jobs in the district.
On Thursday night, the district’s chief financial officer, Tony Sudduth, said February showed improvement. Hospital admissions and patient days were up, and net patient revenue exceeded budget and the prior year.
“As you’d expect with the growth in volumes that we had,” expenses were up, too — over budget and the prior year, Sudduth said.
But the district’s net income for the month was still in the black at $441,638, he said. In January, the net income was more than $1 million in the red.
The accounts payable balance, which is the amount owed for costs ranging from utilities to services and supplies, remains several million above the target.