Trustees eye another hospital site



August 1, 2011 - 12:00 AM

A possible new site has been found for the new Allen County Hospital.
The 24.9-acre parcel lies just north of the residential care facility Fountain Villa on North Kentucky Street. At a specially called meeting Friday night hospital trustees voted to place an option for the land owned by Chris Hopper, a former Iolan, who now lives in Wichita.
The $5,000 option gives trustees the right to authorize engineers to evaluate the property for its suitability for the hospital.
“We believe it has everything we need,” said Harry Lee, board chairman. “Good visibility from the highway, easy accessibility for patients and their visitors, and easy access to utilities.”
The acreage sits less than 500 feet south of Oregon Road that connects with U.S. 169 one-half mile to the east.

THE NEWS was greeted by a welcome, but stunned, reception from members of the audience who had thought trustees were pursuing land connected to Cedarbrook Golf Course.
The City of Iola had offered 19.3 acres near the golf course at no charge.
“But it’s not exactly free,” Lee said. “There are significant costs with developing that land.”
Engineers determined that at least $500,000 would need to be spent on the low-lying land to make it suitable for the 60,000-square-foot hospital.
Also in the mix was that two different parties owned a thin strip of land between Oregon Road and the prospective new hospital, requiring additional land purchases.
The Hopper property on North Kentucky Street slopes from west to east and north to south, providing good drainage.
“It’s like an amphitheater,” said Chuck Richey, a frequent attendee of the hospital board meetings.
It also has an abundance of trees that would provide a good buffer between the hospital and the residential areas to its west.
Hopper is asking $12,000 per acre; putting the price tag at $298,800 and in the neighborhood of that budgeted for land purchases.

SINCE THE changeover of a new Iola City Council the first of April, hospital trustees have felt pressure to locate the new hospital within city limits.
 “There’s some concern if the city would support the hospital with its sales sax revenue if the hospital were built outside the city limits,” Lee said.
Earlier this year trustees had negotiated an option for 25 acres owned by Sally Huskey but it lies just to the north and a half-mile east of the Iola city limit. Iola Mayor Bill Shirley recently told trustees that he could not support that location for the hospital. Iola’s support is critical to the financial footing of the hospital. The previous city commission pledged an annual one-fourth of a 1 percent sales tax, or about $350,000, through 2019 to the hospital.
“We can’t say the Huskey property is out of the equation,” said trustee Patti Boyd, especially if the Hopper property is deemed unsuitable.
“We’re trying to resolve what the city will or will not support.” Talks of annexing the Huskey property to the city have been broached as well as securing city utilities.
Three representatives of the hospital trustees and the city council have agreed to meet when necessary to help bridge any differences, Boyd said.
Trustees meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the basement of the hospital. The meetings are open to the public.

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