Closer, but… Still no final word on ACH site



August 31, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Kiss her, already!
In what seems painstakingly small steps, Allen County Hospital trustees are inching toward deciding on land along North Kentucky Street as the site for a new hospital.
Trustees voted to seek rezoning of the land from residential to commercial and to request approval of the relocation of the hospital from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Trustees also voted to give David Wright, architect for Health Facilities Group, approval to proceed with architectural and engineering drawings at the relatively new site.
The 30-acre site at the intersection of Kentucky and Oregon Road will be put before the Iola Planning Commission on Sept. 21 to seek its approval to rezone the land. The planning commission then gives its recommendation to Iola city councilmen, who make the final decision.

DESPITE THESE actions, trustees, perhaps in their once-burned, twice-shy effort to do due diligence, did not definitively decide on the site. Last spring trustees voted to build at the east entrance to town only to find out the land was of an uncertain composition.
Trustees were bolstered from reports by Wright and Phil Schultze of Murray Construction about the soil at the Kentucky Street site, which is owned by former Iolan Chris Hopper, now of Wichita.
“It was a little more complicated than we would have liked, but we have the answers,” Wright said. From the west side of the parcel going east, the soil consists of three mediums; first limestone, then shale, then “fat clay,” a moist clay. The 30,000-square-foot hospital should be built on one uniform medium, Wright said, with shale being the best.
That means on the west side of the hospital some limestone will need to be excavated and on the east side some piers will need to be built on which to support the hospital. The piers should be less than 10 feet tall, Wright said, and pose no significant cost impact.
“We are very comfortable with things,” he said.
Schultze compared the building costs of locating the hospital either on the Hopper property or to the east on land offered by Sally Huskey that is at the intersection of Oregon Road and U.S. 169.
“It’s about a wash,” said Harry Lee, trustee chairman. Both sites come within the $31.5 million project budget.
The increased costs to improve the road and access utilities to the Huskey site balanced out the additional costs of land for the Hopper property. Otherwise, the design and construction and outfitting the hospital at either site were the same.
Both sites allow for good visibility, Schultze said.
The Hopper site allows for a gentle slope up to the hospital, while the Huskey land was perched atop a knoll.
In regards to utilities, Schultze said the water pressure on North Kentucky is “extremely low,” and wondered if a holding tank should be built to provide the hospital better water pressure or if the city would be interested in upgrading the system that feeds a growing region of town.
Either way, the current level is not sufficient, he said.

THE NIGHT had a sense of urgency.
Working backward on their calendars, trustees realized they are running out of time for certain things to be completed before the end of the year.
Yet to be done is to sell bonds to finance the construction of the hospital. By Nov. 1, a bonding company must know the construction management company’s guaranteed maximum price of building the hospital, Schultze said.
“I’ll need three weeks to arrive at that cost,” he said, putting as equal a burden on architect Wright to complete building and engineering plans in a timely fashion.

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