Voters OK expansion for hospital in Homer

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2003

HOMER South Peninsula Hospital service area residents approved a bond measure to fund a hospital expansion by a margin of 1,201 to 752 in a mail-in ballot election earlier this month.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk said that voter turnout was about 20 percent.

"We're certainly pleased," said David Green, chair of the nine-member service area board. "I would have liked to have seen a larger margin, but we're pleased that people supported it."

The approval gives the go-ahead to finance a portion of the $17 million costs by selling up to $10.5 million in general obligation bonds.

According to the hospital area service board, 1 mill of the current 1.75 mills property taxpayers now contribute to the operations of the hospital would be earmarked to help pay off the bond debt. However, no increase in the 1.75 mill levy is anticipated.

Beyond the bond proceeds, the remaining $6.5 million would be covered by operating and depreciations revenues anticipated over the term of the debt, and by money remaining from an earlier expansion effort put on hold, Green said.

The borough assembly certified the results of the election at its July 8 meeting.

Construction will begin the summer of 2004, with an estimated completion date of December 2005.

The funding will cover planning, design, property acquisition, site preparation, construction and renovations, as well as equipping new and upgraded wings of the hospital. The expansion will add about 25,000 square feet of new space and remodel about 11,000 square feet of existing space.

An informational pamphlet mailed by the hospital board said the project "should meet the hospital's space needs for the next 20 years."

The addition will add a new emergency room with clinic space for visiting specialists and a nursing wing with eight single occupancy patient rooms to improve patient comfort and privacy, it said.

Expansions also would improve the diagnostic imaging department, remodel the surgery department and add space for support services including laundry, nutrition and medical materials.

It will be the second phase of the expansion, following a $6 million project that added a physical therapy facility and long-term care to the hospital. The newest expansion would add beds to the long-term care facility.

Charlie Button, chief financial officer for the hospital, said the first step is putting out requests for proposals for architectural services. He said bids for construction work should be out by spring of 2004, with construction expected to begin that fall.

"We're real pleased," Button said. "We're very pleased with the support of the community."

Chris Bernard is the managing editor of the Homer News.

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