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AGO 1951 No. 122 - September 05, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


Boards of county commissioners have authority to contract with architects to prepare plans for county hospitals and employment contracts may restrict remuneration to funds procured by special levy voted upon and authorizing the construction of said hospital.

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                                                               September 5, 1951

Honorable James E. Duree
Prosecuting Attorney
Pacific County
South Bend, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 122

Attention:  Mr. Fred Schwarz, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your inquiry and request for an opinion of this office in which you ask:

            "May the Board of Pacific County Commissioners enter into a contract with an architect for the furnishing of plans for the erection of a hospital on a county owned site which has been approved by the State Board of Health, which contract contains a provision that the architect's fees shall be solely payable out of a fund raised through a special six mill levy passed by the voters of Pacific County?  * * *"

            Our conclusion is that a board of county commissioners has the authority to contract with an architect to prepare plans for a projected county hospital, and may restrict his remuneration in said contract to funds procured by a special levy authorized by the electorate solely to purchase real property and erect said hospital.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]


            Although no provision is made for architects or architects' fees directly in the county hospital law, section 1, chapter 174, Laws of 1925, Ex. Sess., as amended by section 1, chapter 228, Laws of 1947 (§ 6090-1 Rem. Supp. 1947), the corollary power to retain an architect must follow the commissioner's power to establish said hospital.

            It will be noted that the law provides that both the land acquired or selected for said building and the plans for the hospital building must first be approved by the state Board of Health before construction is authorized.  It, therefore, follows that if plans are required, commissioners must have the power to employ competent persons to draw said plans.  Otherwise, the ridiculous result would follow that no such construction could be authorized since no plans would be available.  It must follow then that commissioners have the necessary power to carry out the authority to build said hospital and to secure the services of necessary persons for this purpose.

            Your attention is called to the case of Kelly v. Hamilton, 76 Wash. 576, 136 Pac. 1148, in which the authority of the county commissioners to employ the architect in connection with the construction of a courthouse was accepted notwithstanding the fact that there was no direct provision for an architect in the law providing that the commissioners shall supply said public building.  This is also true inStoddard v. King County, 22 Wn. (2d) 868, 158 P. (2d) 78, in which the court accepted the power of the county commissioners to retain by contract an architect to prepare plans for a county hospital.  This case, incidentally, answers the second part of your question as the agreement for compensation is limited to funds obtained by a special levy, since in that case the employment, and compensation, was contingent upon the happening of an event in the future, namely securing of adequate funds for construction of the hospital.

            We also call your attention to State ex rel. Piper v. Pratt, 31 Wn. (2d) 725, 198 P. (2d) 814, in which the court recognized the power of the county commissioner to procure architects' services for county construction work.

            We, therefore, conclude and so advise that a board of county commissioners has the authority to enter into a contract for personal services with an architect for the preparation of plans for a projected county hospital, and  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] that remuneration may properly be limited in said contract to funds available from a special tax levy under which the electorate authorized said levy for the special purpose of securing the site and building said hospital upon plans submitted to, and approved by, the state department of health.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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