Hospital commission considers options for renovation

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Eureka Springs Hospital is one step closer to getting a facelift.

On Monday afternoon, the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission heard from Bates Architects about the options for renovating the building. Architect Diane Adler said there are four proposed plans, saying she’s worked with fellow architect Tom Johnson to give the commission plenty of options moving forward.

Johnson presented the plans, beginning with Option A. In that option, he said, clinic space will be on the lower floor along with the circulation desk, laundry and building services. The helipad is shifted out, Johnson said, and all the support services will be located on the lowest floor. That option would result in a 56,000-square-foot hospital for an estimated cost of $21.1 million.

“The footprint is similar to the hospital in Cassville and a little bigger than Berryville,” Johnson said. “Basically, it brings you up to that level.”

Option A has three phases of construction, Johnson said. Adler explained why the phases are important, saying that’s a vital part of the plan.

“The number of phases is to help you have all these plans in place where you can phase those over time depending on the schedule and funding,” Adler said.

Chairman Michael Merry asked if that meant each phase stands on its own, and Adler said it does. Each phase will likely have sub-phases, Johnson added, and the commission will receive the cost per phase after a plan is chosen.

Johnson moved on to Option B, which features a two-level parking deck. The deck would offer 70 additional parking spaces, Johnson said, with a big emphasis on green space surrounding the hospital. Johnson said there would be a 15-bed in-patient unit and an extended behavioral/psych unit. The clinic entrance is on the parking deck side, Johnson said.

“Ambulances come in at the same place,” Johnson said. “We’re separating that from visitor traffic.”

Option B would result in a 49,700-square-foot hospital for an estimated cost of $21.2 million. it would take three phases to complete, Johnson said.

Option C is similar to Option A, Johnson said, but some departments are moved around to give the commission choices on how the building would flow.

Commissioner Mary Jean Sell asked if that option included a gift shop, and Johnson said none of the options do. That’s because Allegiance Health Management didn’t request a gift shop, Johnson said.

“It would be really keen if we could have one,” Sell said. “For all the hospital auxiliary has done for this hospital, they deserve some space.”

“I think it’s a good idea,” Johnson said. “It’s easy to add a gift shop.”

Option C would result in a 58,700-square-foot hospital for an estimated cost of $22.9 million. It would take three phases to complete construction, Johnson said. From his conversations with Allegiance, Johnson said, this is the preferred option

Option D is by far the cheapest option, he said, coming in at 41,000 square feet for an estimated cost of $13.5 million. There are two phases of construction for Option D, Johnson said.

Johnson explained how the 1929 building will be used in each plan, saying he knows the community cares about historical buildings.

“Option A sashes the front part of the building. In Option B, it’s gone,” Johnson said. “In Option C, the whole thing’s gone, and in Option D, we keep the whole building. We tried to look at all the possibilities.”

While Option D maintains the 1929 building, Adler said, it would be difficult for the community to see much change to the hospital.

“The departments have a little bit of growth, but it’s not where ideally it should be ,” Adler said. “Maybe the impression wouldn’t be as strong as the other options would be.”

Commissioner Suzanne Tourtelot said she’s concerned no one will notice the renovations if the 1929 building remains.

“Leaving the facade, they’re still going to say it’s just a dirty old hospital,” Tourtelot said. “If they see a new facade, they’ll say it’s new and clean.”

Johnson said it feels disingenuous to leave the facade up, and Merry agreed.

“Saving any of it really is going a long way to spend money on something that isn’t very valuable or much of an asset,” Merry said.

“It is valuable to a lot of people in the community,” commissioner Barbara Dicks said.

“I agree,” Merry said. “I mean in regards to operating the hospital.”

Adler asked the commission to look over the options and come to a consensus on how to move forward. That’s really up to Allegiance, Merry said.

“It’s time to sit down and call Allegiance and say, ‘This is what we gleaned from what we paid for,’ ” Merry said.

It’s important, Tourtelot said, for the commission to be on the same page as Allegiance.

“If we choose something and they say, ‘Absolutely not,’ are we just spinning our wheels?” Tourtelot said. “We need to work together.”

Tourtelot said she’s concerned about how Allegiance will pay for the construction, considering the company has been late on its payments recently.

“I do not want to take one step forward until I have a clear understanding of why our payments are late and our utility bills are not paid,” Tourtelot said. “If you can’t make money enough to pay your bills on time, how are you going to do this?”

Mayor Butch Berry said the city won’t be on the hook for the renovation cost, because there would be a surety bond in place requiring Allegiance to pay for it. No matter what, Tourtelot said, she wants to clear the air.

“I think we have some business to take care of until we move it forward,” Tourtelot said.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20, at the ECHO community room.

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