Visibility, access play to hospital site



December 2, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Perhaps because of his business background, Tom Miller could look at the prospective site of a new Allen County Hospital with the most dispassionate of views.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business. And Real Estate 101 teaches you location, location, location. That (East Street) location definitely lends itself to high visibility and it’s important to have the hospital in the right spot,” Miller, a trustee, said.
In what may appear a foregone conclusion, hospital trustees again voiced consensus Tuesday night to pursue the investigation of the land along the U.S. 54 corridor, but in a manner they hope is sensitive to those who own the parcels of land that comprise seven acres to the south of Monroe Street and another 12 acres to the north of it.
Trustees agreed to meet individually with the property owners for an exchange of ideas and for what is hoped a meeting of minds on the best site for a new hospital.
“I wouldn’t feel good about not having a face-to-face conversation” with the current landowners, said trustee Jay Kretzmeier.
Although the 7-acre parcel directly along East Street is big enough to accommodate the footprint of a new hospital according to David Wright of the Wichita-based Health Facilities Group, it doesn’t allow for expansion of any other health care-related services such as the Medical Arts Building which is now to the east of the current hospital.
Wright also reinforced the selection of the East Street site because of its easy access from the road and the high visibility given to its Emergency Room.
“It would have as good of access as any hospital I’ve seen,” Wright said.
Lack of access from U.S. 169 was a major drawback for another parcel of land to the north of Iola previously considered by county commissioners. Wright said the Kansas Department of Transportation denied access off the highway that runs north of Iola to a hospital site.
That it would need water, gas and electricity lines extended to it also played to its dismissal.
“I’ve seen towns pay $600,000 to $700,000 to get those connections,” Wright said.
Trustees agreed to pursue at least some of the property to the north of Monroe for the possibility of a health care-like campus with the caveat of the cost of land.
“We’ll have to see what the land acquisition costs are,” said Miller.
The budget allows for $250,000 for land purchases and another $950,000 for remediation to its soil. The site is where former smelters operated and whose zinc tailings are considered a biological hazard.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment dictates how the contaminated soil is to be handled.
“The rules are fairly simple,” said Larry Macha, who owns land to the east of the proposed site. “What is found here, stays here,” thus forbidding removal of the contaminated soil, but rather encapsulating it with either a combination of soil and clay or six inches of asphalt or concrete.
That works in the hospital’s favor because it needs to be built up higher to allow for proper drainage. “We need the slope,” Wright said.
The floorplan of the new hospital does not call for a basement. All utilities will be built above ground, Wright said.
Wright estimated the hospital building will occupy 1.25 acres of land and the parking lot another 2 acres. The parking lot will 150-175 parking spaces of which hospital employees will use some as well as others in the back of the facility.
Joyce Heismeyer, chief executive officer of the hospital, said ACH has 165 employees. The largest shift of workers numbers 75, she said.

UNTIL GROUND is broken it’s difficult to tell how much contamination exists, Macha said. “We were lucky,” he said of the 25-acre site where Jump Start Travel Center and other buildings are located.
Macha said he was able to move the little soil that was contaminated to a corner and cover it with 2 inches of clay and another 6 inches of top soil.
Total cost of remediation: $125,000.
The Family Physicians, however, were not so fortunate. For their 4 acres of land the group of physicians paid $150,000 for soil remediation. More than half of that expense went to Terracon, an engineering firm that conducted the soil study.
The cover-up also included 16-18 inches of clay.
“It was a horrible site in that sense,” said Dr. Glen Singer of the location of the practice which also includes Iola Pharmacy’s drive-through.
Kretzmeier reported “20-plus” appraisers had been seen requests for proposals to set a value on the parcels of land for the proposed site.
Alan Weber, who is serving as counselor to the trustees, said he expected replies “in the next day or two.”

MINUTES OF trustee meetings will be posted on the website of Allen County — — for public viewing, Kretzmeier said. Kretzmeier serves as secretary for the board.

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