New hospital, old location

Consultants recommend

After nine months of research, architectural and financial consultants for The Memorial Hospital have recommended that the new hospital be built on the same site as the current hospital.

The consultants, Keith McLaughlin of health care developer Hammes Company, Alan Richman, president of financial advisors InnoVative Capital, and Donald Finlayson, president of Architectural Nexus, made their recommendation during two meetings at The Holiday Inn on Tuesday.

"The feasibility exists," McLaughlin said of the plan to build the new hospital at the same site as the current hospital. "It's the cheapest. It's the most fundable."

Of the five sites under consideration for the new hospital site, the consultants considered only the current hospital site and two private property sites bordering Highway 40 to be viable options.

But to build on the Highway 40 sites, the community would need to raise from $5 million to $10 million in order to get a large enough loan to fund the project. The $5 million to $10 million would likely be raised through taxation.

The cost of building on a new site is estimated in the ballpark of $27 million.

The current site estimate is $21 million.

"My feeling is your desires are to stem any hemorrhaging from a financial perspective, to attract doctors and to service the community," Richman told about three dozen people gathered at the 10 a.m. meeting.

Richman said these goals could best be achieved by building a new hospital on the current hospital site.

TMH would get the money to build the new hospital from a subsidized loan insured through the federal government's Housing and Urban Development program.

Richman said that even if TMH obtained a new hospital site for free, the costs would be too great to obtain a government loan.

"The project is too big, the site is too expensive, for the government to lend the money," Richman said.

However, Richman said that if the community did want to raise the $5 to $10 million that would be needed to subsidize a loan to build on a new site, he would support the plan and work to complete it.

Or, he noted, another option would be to cut services, down size the square footage of the hospital and build on another site, which could be done without a tax increase.

The current building plan, as designed by Architectural Nexus, will reuse 12,000 square feet of the old hospital. The new hospital will have 62,000 square feet of floor space and will house 20 to 25 hospital beds.

What are now patients' rooms will be remodeled as administrative offices. Laundry and medical materials also would remain in the old building. The new building will house all clinical services.

The Visiting Nurse Association building would remain open for similar use. Demolition costs would be avoided by sealing off the old building or by lightly heating it. Finlayson's plans include the possibility of reopening parts of the old hospital for expansion, when the funds are available.

This plan includes the closure of Russell Street. But Jim Ferree, Craig city manager, said the hospital has yet to approach the city about closing that street.

A sewer line running through the alley between Yampa and Russell Streets would be the site's west boundary, because the architect wants to avoid the expense of replacing the sewer.

The current hospital sits on an 8-acre lot. Some community members at the meeting voiced concern that this would hamper expansion in the future.

"The biggest concern in the reuse plan is flexibility," McLaughlin answered. "This design is fully expandable."

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said the recommendation was "clearly stated" and "very convincing."

"We absolutely need a new hospital," Raftopoulos said. "From the beginning we've needed to look at money amount, and we need to make a decision soon."

Once it is decided where the hospital is to be built, current estimates expect the project to be complete in 16 to 18 months.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031, or by e-mail at rgebhard@craigdailypress.com.

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