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Cancer center project delayed

August 12, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Area cancer patients can blame a combination of wet weather, a small sinkhole and a supply shortage for having to wait until next year to receive radiation therapy in Martinsburg, a City Hospital official said Wednesday.

The new Gateway Regional Cancer Treatment and Rehabilitation Center was slated to start treating cancer patients this fall, said Sandra M. Cleaver, assistant administrator at City Hospital.

But construction delays have pushed the expected opening to February, Cleaver said.

While the sinkhole - measuring 6-by-8 feet around and 12 feet deep - was the most obvious obstacle, a backup in steel fabrication affected the timetable most, she said.

Site work on the $5 million, three-story building, which will sit atop a small hill south of the hospital, started on time in December, Cleaver said.

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The construction schedule was threatened before spring due to a major demand for building steel and anticipated delays in the ability to get steel fabricated and delivered by the June target to start erecting the building, she said.

The steel is crucial because, unlike in residential construction, using wood to support a hospital building would violate life safety codes, Cleaver said.

The steel supply glitch was compounded by weather-related problems, likely including the development of the sinkhole in May, she said.

By then, rainy weather had created muddy conditions that kept work from progressing, Cleaver said.

Once the sinkhole appeared, work was suspended while Enviroscan, of Lancaster, Pa., conducted a subsurface investigation to determine the nature and extent of the sinkhole, she said.

The experts determined that heavy rain had likely washed dirt from finger areas in some limestone causing the sinkhole but that there was no major cavern or defect that couldn't be fixed, Cleaver said.

"It looked like it was worse than it was," she said.

The contractor, W. Harley Miller of Martinsburg, followed the company's recommendation for fixing the problem, Cleaver said.

The sinkhole was filled with boulders and aggregate gravel for stabilization, she said.

Lean concrete - thinner than standard concrete but with a higher gravel content - was used to fill the gaps, Cleaver said.

The spot was then covered with a special nonshrinking grout, she said.

Foundation work resumed Aug. 1, said Cleaver, who said she learned Wednesday that the needed steel should be on site no later than Aug. 24.

The 60,000-square-foot building will serve a number of purposes, including allowing the hospital to start offering radiation therapy to its patients, providing needed physician office space and housing the hospital's rehabilitation and wellness centers, she said.

Approximately 300 people are diagnosed with cancer in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle each year, according to hospital literature.

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