A more than 40-year partnership between the Guild of Tehachapi Hospital and the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District is being questioned. District board members asked how the district benefits by leasing the thrift shop at 101 W. E St. to the Guild, now that Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley has officially taken over in leasing the hospital and other buildings.
This was discussed at the district’s July 2 special board meeting.
“The relationship has changed. The district used to be partners and the Guild was a huge benefit to the district on buying equipment ... but now we’ve got other things we need to work on and the Guild is a drain and not helping us,” said Christine Sherrill, secretary to the district board.
The district signed a 10-year lease on Nov. 1, 2016 with the Guild. The Guild pays annual rent of is $1 per year, with the district agreeing to maintain the property, pay for utilities and insurance with the “purpose for operating a thrift shop and any other purpose approved by the landlord,” according to the lease agreement.
“Essentially what the guild is doing — is taking its money and spending it on a private organization,” said Scott Nave, legal counsel for the district. Nave added this referred to the Guild donating money for the purchase of medical equipment to Adventist Health, even though the district still owns the hospital at 1100 Magellan Drive.
“The Guild made significant financial contributions to the district, when the lease was made. Since operations for the hospital have been turned over to Adventist, the Guild has ceased making contributions to the district. A question has arisen whether the $1 annual rent payment is adequate consideration for the lease,” said a letter from Nave to the district.
Nave added in the letter that the district would have to consider if the Guild would be willing to make other financial contributions, since the nonprofit is not paying “fair rental value of the premises.”
The gifting of public funds came into question at the board meeting.
District board President Mike Nixon said, “Legally, it puts us in a position to where we can no longer lease the Guild building ... because the district is not getting anything, but $1 per year.”
The district spends public funds in the amount of $19,000 per year to maintain the building, said Caroline Wasielewski, chief executive officer for the district, in an interview.
"The board needs to figure out whether the lease is still enforceable with the Guild. Is it still functioning for the district?” she said.
The lease does not say the Guild must give funds to the district. The lease also says that any oral or written agreements affecting the lease are superseded by the lease.
“The women of the Guild work hard to be of service to the community by buying equipment for the new hospital. That is our goal,” Guild President Jane Welden said in an interview. The Guild has donated more than $900,000 to the purchase of medical equipment in recent years, added Welden.
The district is discussing the use of Guild funds to pay for equipment for the hospital and sponsor events.
In May, the district asked the Guild to donate and help fund an Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Awareness booth at National Night Out, an event sponsored by the Tehachapi Police Foundation. This was in the amount of $2,000 to help with costs of marketing and printing materials.
This event was to “promote wellness and help improve the quality of life” in Tehachapi, said a letter from Wasielewski to the Guild. The Guild choose not to sponsor the event, Wasielewski said in an interview.
At previous meetings, Nixon advocated educating the community on survival techniques in case Tehachapi’s electrical grid was without power and teaching how to help others if a natural disaster occurs.
The purchase of the echocardiogram machine was also discussed at a previous meeting, and whether the district would have joint title of the machine or have ownership after the lease of the hospital was over.