TMH plans coming into focus

Hospital officials near final decisions on expansion plans, funding

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The options for building a new hospital and what it might look like, are being narrowed down by The Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees.

A blueprint, or "footprint," made up from what the hospitals various departments have suggested, along with some fine tuning, will be completed in mid- to late July.

"Based on the results of work done with the architectural company on Monday and Tuesday, we've adjusted the footprint in size. The footprint is slightly larger now that the departments have turned in their suggestions, and we added some space for clinical issues, some examples being room for a care clinic and our cardiac rehab program," Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps said. "There was also some redesign for getting the departments organized in the overall sense, for practicality and quality of care reasons.

"We go through this process to make sure the needs of the community are covered. Some nuances concerning patient care also were worked in, such as some open space in the middle of the building, like what this building has now. That added to the size, but the gross square feet remained the same."

The board will now wait for the architects of American Health Facilities Developers to take those suggestions and work them into the footprint of the proposed facility. Along with that design, will come the Guaranteed Not to Exceed (GNE) price. This price will state the maximum price that the facility would cost, and any cost overruns would have to covered by the construction firm. With the blueprint and GNE price in hand, the board would then address a possible referendum concerning funding.

The deadline for registering for the November election is July 27.

"The footprint and price are scheduled to get to us before the referendum deadline, and we are concurrently looking at some non-taxpayer based funding. Because of the complexity of that process, the board won't be receiving an answer until after the election," Phelps said. "I wouldn't rule out the possibility of some of the authorized funds from a successful election being returned if the private source funds were significant enough."

The board plans to roll out a public education effort concentrating on the new facility and funding later this summer, which will continue into the fall.

The option of the hospital purchasing the School Administration building on Yampa Avenue has been virtually disregarded.

"The cost of acquisition, coupled with the cost of the necessary renovations to the School Administration building does not make that option very viable," he said. "Our notion to connect the building to a new facility is complicated by a sewer line that runs behind the Yampa [school] building, which is a barrier to any possible construction."

Instead, the hospital has added a basement to the design of the new facility, which will offer the same administrative and storage access.

The board has also been successful in their pursuit to acquire properties in the surrounding area, that will allow construction of a new hospital.

"We've been successful with our efforts concerning land acquisition for our needs," Phelps said. "The board is working hard to develop a fair way of looking at what they'll pay for properties, and fair and equitable settlements based on the appraisals."

The board is still looking into the possibility of moving houses instead of demolishing them. A company in Grand Junction has inquired about the hospital using its house-moving services, but no final decision has been made.

"That's certainly another offer we could make to property owners. It is an option, as opposed to tearing down structurally-sound buildings. We'll have to see where that idea takes us," Phelps said.

This is a critical time for the board and the hospital, Phelps said. The decision on whether to go forward with the vote this year has several implications. The price could go up because of the delay or because the hospital could be forced by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations to make improvements in the meantime.

The hospital has an agreement, a facilities-based action plan with the Joint Commission that takes into account the hospital's proposals in the accreditation process.

"These pending decisions add to the pressure of this process," Phelps said. "There is an urgency to try to get compliant, and complete the planning steps on time. We need to make sure we have our ducks in a row before we got to the voters."

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