Story at a glance
• The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified The Memorial Hospital on Oct. 1 that the hospital's loan guarantee application had been approved.
• Hospital officials made a public announcement Thursday and held a party to celebrate at The Boardroom restaurant.
• Construction on the new hospital is moving forward, with installation of piers finished and work on sewers, storm sewers and water lines happening next, according to Barry Rodgers, general contractor Robins & Morton's assistant superintendent.
On Wednesday, George Rohrich heard the news he had been waiting one year to hear. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will guarantee the $40.3 million mortgage loan that will help make a new The Memorial Hospital facility a reality.
Yet, Rohrich, TMH chief executive officer, also is looking to what comes next: major construction.
"I've been waiting a year. It's hard to describe the sense of great joy and happiness. Then I start thinking about the next steps :," Rohrich said Wednesday afternoon after making the announcement of HUD's approval at a press conference/party at The Boardroom restaurant. "(Today, we will) take a moment to celebrate, then change gears."
Rohrich said the party also was held to "validate all of the hard work" during the months when the hospital had been quiet and citizens got restless, wondering what was going on.
"We've been pretty quiet at times because we had nothing to report," Rohrich said.
But there was plenty to report Wednesday.
More than 50 people attended the announcement party, where they heard from both Rohrich and TMH Board Vice President Ron Danner, and then they celebrated and enjoyed snacks.
"We started this process, since I've been here, 13 months ago. During that long, painful process : it was possible for folks to get discouraged," Rohrich told the crowd. "But we kept our nose to the grindstone, and we prevailed."
Rohrich said he and TMH staff and board members were in constant contact with HUD staff throughout the process, as they went through the application, which weighed 18 pounds altogether.
While a great many TMH staff members worked on the loan guarantee application, Danner turned the credit, ultimately, over to the taxpayers who voted to help fund the new hospital.
"That was the key," Danner said. "We were sort of stalled" until the yes vote. "That vision of what health care will look like going into the future is a key element (to the approval), that's really the support that made the project be tipped over the edge."
Danner led the crowd in a champagne toast, saying, "To the tremendous asset that this allows us to go forward with, congratulations to the community."
He later said before the vote, the hospital board had tried looking for private funding, but was unsuccessful in securing the necessary loans from investment bankers and the like. But once the voters stepped in, it showed how important the project was to the community, and that was what led to the HUD loan guarantee.
Now, InnoVative Capital, LLC, the FHA mortgage banker and financial adviser, will begin the process of locking in an interest rate for the new hospital's financing.
"This is an affirmation of the vision that the hospital's Board and management have shown, as well as the confidence of its consultants in the financial viability of the hospital's replacement project," said InnoVative Capital President and CEO Alan P. Richman.
And, Danner said, the citizens who voted really will get to see their tax dollars turn into a hospital, as construction carries on through the winter.
"The project is going to be coming out of the ground this winter," he said. "People will be able to see progress."
And so will HUD, which will have a certain amount of control throughout the construction process, Rohrich said.
"Their goal is that the hospital is successful," he said.
That's what everyone is waiting for - and will not get to see, according to Samantha Johnston, TMH service excellence officer.
"I think our taxpayers have been sitting at home with their fingers crossed that they made a good investment," she said. "Now, I think they'll be able to see a tangible form (of that money)."
And now that the new facility's 200-plus piers connecting the foundation to the bedrock underneath have been completed, the project will move on to sewers, storm sewers and water lines, and then to steel frames.
That's what Gail Severson is waiting for to make her move.
Severson, a member of The Memorial Hospital Foundation who has helped raise money for the project since 2002, said that during fund-raising drives, there were about 30 people who said they would donate once they could "see bricks and mortar going up."
"We haven't forgotten who they are," she said, laughing.
Jennifer L. Grubbs can be reached at 875-1790 or email@example.com