Curry Health District officials are moving forward with plans to build a new hospital in Gold Beach, but it may not happen as quickly as originally planned.
Circumstances surrounding the delay have spurred rumors that the district had lost the funding for the project - but it's not true, officials said.
"The misinformation floating about is disheartening and I know if we can get the word out there it will put the minds of our community members at ease," said Cheryl McDermott, district executive assistant.
The latest information about the project will be discussed at the district's board meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, McDermott said.
Building a new hospital has been on the district's list since November 2013, when district voters approved at $10 million bond measure to replace the aging facility. The district plans to construct the new hospital just west of the current structure.
This spring, the district board started the arduous task of getting all the necessary permits and approvals from a variety of government agencies, with the goal of breaking ground on the new facility in October. However, the process is taking longer than expected, said district CEO Andrew Bair.
"We had been pushing for an October groundbreaking that is not likely andndash; however not completely impossible," Bair said. "We will know more after the next few board meetings. We remain focused on building the new Curry General Hospital, and are committed to continue moving forward until our community ultimately has the appropriate modern and efficient facility necessary to provide them for decades to come the quality healthcare they need and deserve."
At a July 7 Salem meeting with state and USDA representatives, Bair and other Curry Health District officials learned that, while the USDA remains very supportive of the hospital plan in Gold Beach, the district had likely run out of time for obtaining an official commitment of USDA funding in their current fiscal year.
Bair said he had been working hard to obtain the commitment this fiscal year.
"The environmental site assessment alone required correspondence with 14 different agencies, and while the length of time to complete is not atypical, it is lengthy," Bair said.
"Our geotechnical and feasibility studies took longer than expected, and compounded by the tardy geotech study is engineering work to determine the cost of building on this site," he said.
"We still do not know the projected cost of our foundation, although we should know by the end of this month," he added.
Soil samples at the site suggest the project will require deep foundations and slope stabilization, and the additional engineering work is needed to make a cost determination.
"Much work has been done, and as expediently as possible andndash; yet the USDA just needed a little more information and a little more time," Bair said.
Ken Landau, the district's chief financial officer, said one of the USDA's key officials who was to review the environmental study has accepted another position within the agency - a move that may well have contributed to their decision that the window of opportunity for this fiscal year has likely closed.
"Based on the USDA instruction guide, there are a number of items that need to be completed by the state office prior to the district's next steps," Landau said. "We have provided all the reports and information to the USDA possible at this juncture andndash; the next steps must be done by the USDA, mostly in the form of review."
The instruction guide is comprised of a list of 160 reports, studies, audits and documents needed; and the application process is lengthy, complicated and arduous, he said.
Bair said he has been fielding the same question again and again: "What does this mean?"
"We may still get funding, just not now," is his answer.
The next fiscal year for the USDA begins in October," he said.
"While the USDA will never guarantee funding before the actual commitment, they remain - as they have always been - very supportive of the project," Bair said. "We also believe we are qualified for alternative funding, however that option would take time as well and involve another feasibility study."
Meanwhile, the district has made substantial progress in other areas related to the new hospital.
"We have completed a market analysis study, financial feasibility study, geotechnical study, environmental site assessment and a land title survey," Bair said. "Ken has put forth a tremendous amount of energy into providing the USDA with all the financial information they require. We've hired an investment banking firm to assist with marketing the GO bond. We've selected a design-build firm and are deep into the planning stages of our new hospital, although there is still detailed design work to complete before we break ground."