Hospital board looking out for us
For the last three years, members of the Chase County Community Hospital board of trustees have been working diligently to set a direction for the county-owned facility.
They’ve explored the possibility and costs of renovating the existing structure and adding on. They’ve also considered building a new facility. In the end, they determined a new facility would best serve Chase County.
Initial estimates provided by one firm indicated a new hospital would cost less than remodeling and adding on. The new build estimate came in around $23 million.
From there, they selected a contractor and architectural firm to develop plans for a new facility, using the design-build formula to arrive at a guaranteed price. To complete that work, the county allotted up to $1.5 million to pay for the $1.2 million in costs to arrive at that guaranteed cost.
Last week, the board got thrown a big curve in the process when the guaranteed cost came in just shy of $30 million. This includes $24.8 million to build the facility and almost another $5 million to equip it.
From the sound of things, the board was astonished the cost came in that high. I’m guessing they were expecting somewhere between $23-25 million. The design-build firms indicated there wasn’t much wiggle room to negotiate the price down, let alone chopping out $4 million.
Two of the hospital board members met with the county commissioners Tuesday to discuss the situation. The commissioners must approve putting any bond election for the hospital on the ballot.
Even the hospital board members thought the cost was more than what the county can afford right now. In good conscience, they didn’t want to pursue a bond election for $29 million that taxpayers would be paying for over the next 25 years.
I’m sure it’s disappointing for the hospital board, considering all the hours they have put in on this effort. But they are working for you and never lost sight of putting forth a realistic cost that they believed voters would get behind and approve.
Now it’s time for the board to regroup and decide the best path forward. Regardless, I still believe a new facility will best serve the healthcare needs of Chase County and the area for a generation to come. Now the challenge will be to figure out a way to get there at a cost and design everyone can live with.