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AGO 1957 No. 120 - September 17, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


The board of county commissioners of each of the counties comprising a joint sanatorium group has the power to lease or sell its property interest in a joint tuberculosis hospital to the state upon such terms and conditions as the boards of county commissioners deem for the best interest of their respective counties.

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                                                              September 17, 1957

Honorable Albert D. Rosellini
Governor of the State of Washington
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 120

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your request for an opinion of this office on the following question:  "In the event the state director of health requests consolidation of tuberculosis patients from Central Washington Tuberculosis Hospital at Selah to Firland Sanatorium at Seattle and such consolidation is effected, may the six counties operating the joint tuberculosis sanatorium at Selah lease this facility to the State of Washington for the hospitalization of retarded children?"

            Your question is answered in the affirmative.


            Chapter 70.34 RCW (chapter 86, Laws of 1935) authorizes the establishment, maintenance and operation of joint county sanatoria for the treatment of persons afflicted with tuberculosis.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            RCW 70.34.010 provides in part as follows:

            "The boards of commissioners of two or more adjacent counties may establish, operate, and maintain jointly a sanatorium for the care and treatment of persons suffering from tuberculosis, . . ."

            RCW 70.34.020 provides the method by which such sanatoria may be established and the proportionate interest of each component county determined:

            RCW 70.34.020

            "The sanatorium may be established by a majority vote of the board of county commissioners of each county in the group.  Upon such decision each board shall appoint one of its members to meet with the member from the board of any other county, to organize as a joint sanatorium committee.  Subject to the approval of the board of each county of the group, the joint committee may fix the proportionate share each county shall bear in the cost of the site and establishing, erecting, equipping, and maintaining the sanatorium, according to the assessed valuation of its taxable property; select a site for the sanatorium; and supervise its construction and equipping.  When the county boards agree upon a different apportionment of the cost of maintenance, the agreed apportionment shall govern."

            No procedure is provided in chapter 70.34 RCW for the disposition of the property and equipment thus acquired in the event that the facility is no longer needed for the hospitalization of tuberculosis patients.

            In 1941, our legislature enacted RCW 36.34.250 which vested plenary power in the several counties to dispose of county property to the United States or the state of Washington.

            RCW 36.34.250

            "The board of county commissioners of any county may lease, sell, or convey by gift, all or any portion of real estate, or any interest therein owned by the county,however acquired, whether by tax foreclosure or in any other manner, to the United States for the use and benefit of any branch of the army, navy, marine corps, or air forces of the United States, or for enlarging or improving any military base thereof, or for any governmental housing  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] project, or for the purpose of constructing and operating any federal power project, or to the state, without requiring competitive bids or notice to the public and at such price and terms as the board may deem for the best interests of the county.  The property may be conveyed to the United States or to the state by deed or other instrument of conveyance and shall not require any consideration, if donated, other than the benefit which may be derived by the county on account of the use thereof and development of such property by the United States or the state."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            A board of county commissioners likewise has substantially the same power with respect to personal property.  See RCW 36.34.130 as interpreted by AGO 57-58 No. 108 [[to Charles O. Carroll, Prosecuting Attorney, King County on August 8, 1957]].

            It is a fundamental principle that the legislature is presumed to have passed a statute with full knowledge of existing statutes.  State v. Thornbury, 190 Wash. 549;Benn v. Grays Harbor County, 102 Wash. 620.  Likewise it is a cardinal rule of statutory construction that all acts of the legislature will be given effect insofar as reasonably possible.  State ex rel. Reed v. Spanaway Water District, 38 Wn. (2d) 393, 393-399.  Also, where the provisions of the statute are clear and free of ambiguity there is no reason for the application of rules of statutory construction and such statute must be interpreted according to the plain and ordinary meaning of the language used.  Sandona v. Cle Elum, 37 Wn. (2d) 831;Public Hospital Dist. v. Taxpayers of Okanogan County, 44 Wn. (2d) 623.

            In view of the foregoing, inasmuch as chapter 70.34 RCW does not specifically provide for the disposition of a joint county tuberculosis sanatorium in the event it is no longer needed for the hospitalization of tuberculosis patients, it is our opinion that RCW 36.34.250, supra, is applicable to the disposition of a county's interest in a joint tuberculosis sanatorium.

            We therefore conclude that the board of county commissioners of each of the counties comprising the joint sanatorium group operating Central Washington Tuberculosis Hospital has the power to lease or sell its proportionate interest in the hospital and its equipment to the state upon such terms and conditions as the boards of county commissioners deem for the best interest of their respective counties.

            We trust that the foregoing satisfactorily answers your inquiry.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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