Hospital improvements may go before voters

Posted: Tuesday, April 08, 2003

South Peninsula Hospital Service Area residents could be voting July 1 on a proposed $10.5 million general obligation bond package to add further additions to the Homer medical facility.

A vote-by-mail special election would be held if an ordinance introduced at last week's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting becomes law. Ordinance 2003-12 would ask residents to approve $17 million in capital improvements for the hospital and authorize issuance of up to $10.5 million in bonds to partially fund the project. The balance, $6.5 million, would come from hospital funds either already in the bank or expected from revenues over the next several years. The bond package would not require a mill-rate increase, according to hospital officials.

In 1998, voters approved bonding for a three-phase expansion plan by a 4-to-1 margin. By 2000, the first phase, expansion of the long-term care unit and the addition of rehabilitation facilities and office spaces were complete. However, funding shortfalls and other issues put the next two phases on hold.

"We revised our strategic plan for the next 10 years," Charlie Franz, hospital administrator, said in an interview last week. "Out of that came the clear need to have a master campus plan for construction to meet the basic needs."

The hospital contracted with the architectural firm Livingston, Slone and Associates to develop a new plan for completing the project. Analysis showed the expected increase in population and the associated demand for hospital services required more space.

The proposed plan substantially would remodel 11,000-square feet of the existing 83,000-square-foot building and add 25,000-square feet of new construction.

Franz said that would add a new nursing wing off the front of the building with eight new single-occupancy rooms, rooms that could serve multiple purposes depending on demand. An emergency room would be added to the east end of the main building as well as a clinic for visiting physicians. The imaging department would be expanded, as would the hospital's medical warehouse. New laundry, medical records and dietary services areas also would be added.

"That will address most of our identified needs and get us in petty good shape for the next 20 years," Franz said.

Last Tuesday, Franz and South Peninsula Hospital Service Area board chair David Green discussed the proposed project with the assembly. A handout indicated that bonds would cover $10.5 million, while $4 million in retained earnings left over from the earlier bond election and another $2.5 million from hospital operations would cover the rest.

"This will all be done within the existing tax levy," Green said.

Currently property taxpayers pay a 1.75-mill levy.

They said they hoped to win assembly approval by April 15 and get voter approval July 1. If successful, they plan to have a contract with an architect by mid-September and a bond sale by November or December. Construction would begin in August 2004, with project completion tentatively scheduled for December 2005.

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