MARTINEZ -- In an exceptionally rare act of government contraction, Contra Costa regulators pulled one of the last remaining plugs Friday on a small public health care district that hasn't run a hospital in 16 years.
The Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission unanimously launched the countdown toward disbanding the five-member elected Mt. Diablo Health Care District board, downsizing its territory and assigning its governance and small pot of property tax money to the Concord City Council.
Concord Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister spoke in favor of the city's new role, which the commission had requested as an alternative to a more legally risky outright dissolution.
"Our goal is to make this district a long-term success," she said.
Barring further surprises in what has been a long and tortured process, the commission is scheduled to take final action Aug. 9.
Even so, the decision will come just days before the Aug. 15 candidate filing deadline, which would trigger a $120,000 taxpayer-funded district election.
The Friday afternoon hearing took 20 minutes and contrary to previous meetings, no one from the district spoke.
The district had voted earlier this month to challenge Concord's plan, which would have delayed the process and led to a costly election.
The board later rescinded its decision after a lengthy meeting with Concord where district Chairman Jeff Kasper said city officials satisfied his concerns.
Voters formed the health care district in 1948 as a means to fund and build the former Mt. Diablo Hospital in Concord. The district faced bankruptcy in the mid-1990s and voters turned over the hospital to the private nonprofit John Muir Health, which renamed it John Muir Medical Center.
The health care district remained in place. The board was supposed to oversee the transfer agreement with John Muir, among a few other duties.
But the vast majority of its $240,000 a year in property tax revenues went to elections, legal bills, overhead and lifetime health benefits to a pair of eligible elected directors.
Four civil grand juries, numerous activists and newspaper editorial boards have been calling for its dissolution since 2000.
The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association initiated the most recent effort to shutter the district, which ultimately led to Friday's action.
Under the reorganized district, the Concord City Council will serve as the elected board of directors in a reduced territory consisting of Concord and Pleasant Hill. Martinez, Clyde, Pacheco and a few parcels in Lafayette and Clayton will be removed.
Concord will set up a community grant program with the estimated $200,000 a year in property taxes generated in the smaller district.
It will also share seats with Pleasant Hill on the community health foundation board, which distributes an added $1 million a year from John Muir as mandated in the hospital transfer agreement.