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2010 - Ready to heal

Officials say new county hospital is on schedule

Officials say new county hospital is on schedule

June 29, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Four months after the Washington County Health System broke ground on its new hospital, work is well under way and going as planned, officials said last week.

Workers have cleared the land to make room for the 511,000-square-foot facility on Robinwood Drive and have begun digging the foundation, health system spokeswoman Nicole Jovel said Wednesday.

Crews have finished almost three-quarters of the digging to get the building's footprint to grade, Jovel said.

The dirt that is removed will be kept and used in other areas on the site.

Workers recently began installing the first of more than 150 caissons that will support the hospital's three towers, Jovel said.

Work on the foundations and supports will continue through the fall, Jovel said.

"In November, the site itself will start to go up and the building will really start to take shape," Jovel said.

The health system held a ceremonial groundbreaking in February for the new facility, which will be adjacent to Robinwood Medical Center.

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The project is scheduled to be finished in late 2010.

It will have 297 single-bed rooms, 17 operating rooms, 53 emergency treatment rooms, two trauma rooms and two cardiac rooms, according to a fact sheet provided by health system officials at the groundbreaking.

By comparison, the current hospital on Antietam Street in Hagerstown has 274 beds and no single rooms.

Construction on the new medical center began more than five years after the project first was announced.

Plans were delayed when, in January 2006, some Robinwood-area residents appealed zoning variances that were granted to allow the project to proceed.

Opponents argued that the area was inappropriate for a hospital.

Several appeals against the zoning variances were rejected by Maryland courts, though the cost of the project skyrocketed during the delay.

When construction kicked off in February, the projected price tag nearly had doubled, from about $150 million to the current estimate of $293.8 million.

That cost estimate and the projected finish date of November 2010 have not changed since February, health system officials said this week.

The majority of the project's financing came from bonds sold through the Maryland Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority (MHHEFA).

The MHHEFA is a state organization that can be used by hospitals and educational groups to issue tax-exempt, low-interest bonds to help build facilities.

Washington County Health System sold $264.3 million worth of bonds through the MHHEFA to finance the hospital project, said Raymond Grahe, vice president of finance for Washington County Hospital.

The hospital's equity contribution to the project will be $20.6 million. Of that, $11 million has been contributed, Grahe said.

In addition, the hospital expects to earn more than $10 million in interest on construction funds, which will be used to help pay for the project, Grahe said.

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