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Med center breaks ground

April 29, 2006|By DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, PA.

It was not the sweet smell of success, but something earthier from a nearby farm that wafted across a bluff overlooking McConnellsburg Friday afternoon, yet it did little to suppress the sense of a community's accomplishment.

"We have that good old Fulton County aroma here today. Get a good whiff," Diane J. Palmer told a crowd of about 250 people who gathered for the groundbreaking for a new $37 million Fulton County Medical Center.

"Our vision has become a reality," said Palmer, president of the center. By late 2007, the 22-acre parcel will be home to a 97,000-square-foot medical center and nursing home, replacing a 56-year-old building jammed onto two acres in town.

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"Our current facility has just become outdated and, frankly, overused," Palmer said of the center, which has 55 nursing home beds, 25 hospital beds and employs about 370 people.

"We'll have our own helipad. We won't have to land in the Legion parking lot anymore," said Chief Financial Officer Jason Hawkins. "We'll actually have a parking lot. We won't have to park at the church" across the street from the old center, he said.

The center will have 67 nursing home beds and 21 hospital beds, two intensive care rooms and an isolation room, Hawkins said. It could eventually be expanded to accommodate 97 nursing home residents, he said.

"It's incredible. In two years this is where I'm going to be driving," Nursing home Administrator Melissa Randler said, taking in the mountain view. Fifteen nursing home residents were also on hand to get a look at what will be their new home.

Helen Overly was named chairwoman of the fundraising effort a few years ago and was told she might expect to raise about $1.5 million from the community.

"They had done a feasibility study that said we couldn't raise that kind of money," Overly said. Since then individuals and businesses have donated more than $6 million and with $4 million in state and federal funds committed to the project, she said.

A $26 million bond issue will finance the balance of the project, Hawkins said.

The biggest benefactor is the county's largest employer, JLG Industries, which committed $2.5 million, said Lisa Corona, the manufacturer's vice president for human resources. Overly said the late Cora I. Grove donated and bequeathed another $1.5 million and the late John Shimer left about $1.5 million, as well.

"My mother spent 13 years in the existing center with Alzheimer's disease and she got such great treatment," said D.A. Washabaugh III, a retired car dealer who donated the land.

Palmer thanked scores of people, businesses, center staff and its board of directors for their help in raising the money and the 10-year planning effort that preceded Friday's event.

State Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-30th, and State Rep. Dick Hess, R-78th, both said the center will build the economy through the jobs it creates, businesses it supports and the businesses attracted to communities with modern medical facilities.

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