An artistic rendering of the front façade of the new The Memorial Hospital.

Earl Swensson Associates/courtesy

An artistic rendering of the front façade of the new The Memorial Hospital.

Facility feedback

TMH seeking public input on future of Russell Street location

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The Memorial Hospital is asking for ideas from the public on potential future uses of the current Russell Street building once the hospital has relocated to a new facility west of town, possibly in 2009.

Anyone with ideas can contact TMH service excellence officer Samantha Johnston at 826-3109, by e-mail at samantha.johnston..., or by fax at 824-2235.

— For all the questions officials from The Memorial Hospital have answers for, one that remains unknown thus far is the fate of its current Russell Street facility.

"There's no plan for it right now," said George Rohrich, TMH chief executive officer. "We want to get the community's ideas on what to do with the building."

The CEO's words came at the conclusion of a Thursday night presentation at the Holiday Inn of Craig. TMH officials and architects unveiled plans and renderings of its proposed new, 300-room, 25-bed facility in development west of town.

Opened in August 1950, the Russell Street building has been the hospital's home for close to six decades. It has been renovated several times since it opened, including a major overhaul and addition in the 1970s, according to the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

But, its time as the focal point of the area's health care system could soon come to an end.

Backed by a voter-approved three-mill levy in November 2007 and the likely approval of a federal loan guarantee through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, TMH officials are anticipating construction of the new hospital to begin this summer.

In October 2009, the facility could be completed.

Although hospital officials are uncertain as of now what should become of the building, Rohrich told the audience Thursday what TMH hopes to avoid.

"We hope to find another use," the CEO said. "We don't want to leave it vacant or demolish it."

Potential future uses mentioned by Rohrich include using the vacated space for assisted living, adult daycare or "those types of facilities." He also said the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, which occupies the building's southern end, has expressed interest in using the space.

Cole White, VNA director of community care, said the VNA has explored options on what types of programs it could offer in the current TMH facility. Some of those options included adult services, senior wellness, adult day care and other community-based and inter-agency collaboration programs.

"There's a lot of potential there," he said.

Although there has been some exploratory discussions, White said it is too early in the process for the VNA to commit to a plan.

"At this point, we're a party of interest," he said.

Sue Birch, VNA chief executive officer, said the VNA is committed to keeping its Craig office in the Russell Street location for the time being. The organization also is interested in working with TMH and the Moffat County Commission to ensure the "old site is put to the best use."

"We're up for coming together and looking at how the space can be used instead of sitting there vacant," said Birch, who also cited the VNA's desire to see the neighborhood surrounding TMH remain a "vital block for the community."

As of now, there are several unanswered questions regarding the Russell Street building, including whether the county or TMH would be responsible for its sale, what the sale price could be or when a decision on the facility could be made, among others.

Samantha Johnston, TMH service excellence officer and spokeswoman, said she anticipates hospital officials and the county will discuss the Russell Street building's future more in depth in coming weeks to answer some of the unanswered questions.

Public feedback could play a part in those discussions. TMH is asking for the public's ideas on what to do with the soon-to-be vacated space.

"I have received a lot of public and employee ideas about possible uses for the old facility," Johnston said. "Most of the feedback centers around turning the building into an adult day care, assisted living center or hospice facility.

"Some residents have suggested finding a way to make it a conference center or office space. I am still soliciting community feedback to accomplish two things - be able to investigate all opportunities to determine what is : and is not viable, and to ensure that we don't miss a great opportunity that we have not thought about."

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