Transitions spark rumors at Tulare health district

A confluence of events at the Tulare Local Health Care District (TLHCD) has concerned residents talking, but the governing board’s president says business continues as usual despite those ongoing recent challenges.


New Leaders Needed

In October, the district’s CEO announced her intention to retire at year’s end, news that was quickly followed by the resignation of District 3 Director Senovia Gutierrez. The search for a replacement for CEO Sandra Ormonde seems to be going well, with several qualified potential replacements throwing their hats in the ring, while finding a replacement for Gutierrez is going “not well” according to the president of the TLHCD board.

A CEO selection could be made as soon as Friday, November 5 during a special meeting of the directors set for noon.

“There’s a chance,” said TLHCD president Kevin Northcraft.

The hiring decision, if one is made, will be taken behind closed doors then announced to the public.

A rumor addressed in previous reporting by the Valley Voice suggested the board intended to place one of its own members in the CEO position, a move that would create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Board Secretary Xavier Avilia dismissed the notion, saying the board was “a lot smarter than that,” and he suggested their legal counsel would keep them on the straight and narrow.

If the board doesn’t reach a hiring decision Friday, it will likely do so at its next regular meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on November 17. The board holds its meetings at Evolutions Plaza, 1425 E. Prosperity Avenue.


District 3 Application Period Extension

The search to fill the District 3 seat vacated by Gutierrez has yet to yield a single candidate, and the board will also take up that topic at the Friday special meeting.

“We have it on the agenda to extend the deadline because we haven’t had applicants,” Northcraft said.

At this point, the first person to step forward could likely get the job. Northcraft is hoping a citizen of conscience will fill the gap. Anyone with interest should submit a letter of intent that includes a list of their qualifications to serve. Applicants must reside in District 3.

“There’s a lot of good people who think this would be an investment in our future to make this dream a reality,” he said.

He did not name anyone in particular as a possible candidate, and time is running out.

The board has just 60 days to find a replacement on its own. That deadline–set as December 1–is rapidly approaching. Once it passes, the appointment of a replacement becomes the responsibility of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.


VA Not Taking Over Gym

Despite a visit from officials of the Veterans Administration to Evolutions Plaza–a district-owned property that is home to the popular Evolutions gym–there is no plan to lease a large portion of the complex to the agency.

“We’ve kind of rejected that previously,” Northcraft said.

The notion the VA would take over the building resurfaced as a rumor after a worker at the plaza reported overhearing the visiting group of VA officials discussing how the lower level of the building could be gutted and remodeled to serve the agency’s needs. There are no plans for leasing to the VA, Northcraft said, and such a remodel would cost on the order of $7 million. That cost would fall on the VA’s shoulders in a long-term lease arrangement, making such a rental arrangement untenable.

Besides, Northcraft says the district has a better solution, one that better benefits both parties, and it involves new construction on district-owned land.


Request for Proposal Posted

In late August, the district invited land developers to submit their plans for constructing a medical office building on a district-owned piece of property at Gem and Merritt streets. The office would be a single story building of 2,900 square feet, a size that may suit the VA’s needs quite well, and the district seems to have a developer in mind for the project.

“We’re trying to convince the VA they’re making a mistake by not building a brand new facility. That’s the best outcome for them and us,” Northcraft said. “We have land we might be able to talk to them about and a private developer to build for them.”

However, the VA has remained steadfast in its refusal to build itself a home in Tulare. Yet Northcraft–and apparently the TLHCD board supports the notion–thinks the VA will see the light in the end.

“They’re still insisting they will not pay for a new building,” Northcraft said. “This is the third round, so I’m thinking they’ll come around.”

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

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