PINEDALE – After a day filled with public meetings, Sublette County’s Rural Health Care Board District selected the site where it wants to build the critical access hospital on Friday.
By a 4-1 vote, the board chose the 16-acre Bloomfield site, located across the street from the Hampton Inn. The five elected board members including chairman Scott Scherbel, vice chairman Laura Clark, John Godfrey and Chuck Bacheller voted for the site. Wendy Boman voted not to select the site.
The board also voted, 5-0, to build a new clinic within the hospital, and, if the budget allows, to move the ambulance barn to the new hospital, as well.
The small crowd at Friday’s special meeting cheered when the board selected a site. It also cheered earlier in the meeting when a community member said he didn’t really care where the hospital was built. “Let’s just put it over the end zone,” he said.
The board chose the Bloomfield site over the 11.7-acre Redstone site, located in a residential area near Pinedale’s ice rink, and the 28.3-acre Napierskie site, located between High Country Suites and the WYDOT building.
“We looked at all three sites very diligently,” board chairman Scherbal said before the vote. “All three are absolutely buildable and large enough for future expansion. I’d be happy with any site.”
Concerns about the Redstone site being in a residential area and the Napierskie site containing a wetland ultimately led to the Bloomfield decision.
At Thursday’s meeting, the board looked at all three sites and developed a matrix score for each site based on four main criteria: land features, location, road access and environmental concerns. The land features included concerns like the property size, potential for expansion, topography and cost per acre. Location included factors like visibility and support from surrounding neighborhoods. Road access considered the number of access sides and ambulance accessibility. Environmental concerns dealt mostly with the wetlands at the Napierskie site.
The Bloomfield site scored a 64.4, slightly lower than the Napierskie’s 64.5 while the Redstone property scored a 42.4.
A few people from the community spoke up and said they didn’t want the hospital in a residential area. Others said they preferred the Napierskie site because it would make the hospital front and center in the town.
Clark said a hospital in the residential area that would be within walking distance would be nice for older patients, but added, “I don’t think it’s a place for us right now.”
The rest of the board agreed building the hospital in the residential area could be problematic, noting helicopters flying overhead and light pollution from the parking lot.
Boman and Godfrey spoke in favor of the Napierskie site.
“The wetland doesn’t bother me; it could be utilized in a different way,” Boman said. With the elementary school located near the Bloomfield site, she said she was concerned about future traffic in the area.
Godfrey also said he didn’t consider the wetland an issue at the Napierskie site.
Board member Bacheller, however, did. “The wetlands do concern me,” Bacheller said. “It basically takes a third of the property away from use.”
After spending a few days recently in the hospital with his wife, Bacheller also said the views became an important consideration of his, and he felt the views at the Bloomfield site are better than Napierskie’s.
After the discussion, Godfrey made a motion to select the Bloomfield site, Bacheller seconded it and then both Scherbal and Clark voted in favor of the motion.
The land will cost $62,696 per acre. The land per acre was the cheapest of the three, but the hospital will have to finish Garrison Road, which will bump up the price to developing the land up between $660,000 and $832,000. In all, the Bloomfield site will cost about $52,000 to develop each acre, compared to $22,579 per acre at the Napierskie site and $39,145 to develop the Redstone area.
Clinic will join hospital
After choosing the hospital’s location, the board also had to decide what to do about the current Pinedale clinic and the ambulance barn – whether to continue operating them in their current buildings, which are owned by the county, or to incorporate them into the hospital’s construction.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary to have the clinic with the hospital – it’s a no-brainer,” Boman said.
Having them in the same building will prevent doctors from having to drive across town to see patients. It will also help avoid the duplication of services.
The motion to incorporate the outpatient clinic into the new critical access hospital passed, 5-0.
The new clinic will cost approximately $1.6 million while leaving the current clinic in need of a new tenant.
Ambulance barn could move
Building a new ambulance barn in the hospital could be a budget breaker, but the board decided to include it in the initial design.
The ambulance barn is estimated to cost $1.7 million, but it’s unclear whether that will push the hospital over its $17 million construction budget.
“If it isn’t in the budget, it’s not in the budget,” Bacheller said.
The board seemed to agree, however, that having everything in one location would be ideal. Earlier discussion included staffing, that is often supplemented by the parmedics.
“There’s no value to it, but there’s a benefit,” EMS Director Bill Kluck said.
The new location won’t change response times, but it would affect how much the emergency medical service providers can help out. If they’re in the same location, the paramedics will be available to help out in emergencies since they’d be right there.
Since the prototype and building costs have yet to be finalized, the board isn’t sure whether or not it can afford to build the new ambulance barn yet.
The board eventually decided to include the ambulance barn and EMS facilities in the hospital, “subject to future budget considerations.” In other words, if the ambulance pushes the hospital over budget, it will remain housed at the current clinic.
Building the barn with the hospital, however, is preferred.
“Costs go up, but they don’t usually go down,” Clark said.
Selecting a site for the new critical access hospital was a big hurdle to clear for the board, but it still has some work to do before the construction can begin.
Next, the board and Sletten will work on completing their preliminary architectural review by Jan. 31. On Friday, the morning meetings were devoted to nailing down the specific needs of each department, like how many rooms will be needed to perform surgeries. Sletten and Plan One Architects, the firm in charge of building the hospital, will now incorporate those needs into the hospital’s initial prototype.
Once the architectural review is done, and BKD’s financial report is finalized, the board can officially apply for the USDA Rural Development loan.
“I firmly believe the hospital will be an economic driver,” Godfrey said. “It will attract people to retire and reside here. It could also attract medical personnel.”