Commissioners defend old hospital decision
The Stillwater County Commissioners took aim Tuesday at what they called “inaccurate information” expressed by citizens and commissioner-elect Mark Crago at a recent agenda meeting regarding the decision to remodel the old hospital for county office use.
The comments were made at this past Tuesday’s agenda meeting, during the “Public Comment” portion and the meeting was closed immediately after.
Commissioner Maureen Davey was not at the Nov. 15 meeting at which the comments were made, but she said she had listened to a tape recording of it several times. Her comments about what she called “inaccurate information” at the Nov. 15 meeting were as follows:
•Regarding the physical condition of the old hospital, Davey said a structural engineer had been hired and that the building was suitable.
Whitten & Borges, PC structural engineers from Billings were hired in 2012 to conduct a structural review, with the firm writing “This review is considered limited and cursory at this point with the intent to identify any obvious foundation issues,” according to the report filed in the Stillwater County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. (See the report on page 3).
•Regarding Crago’s re-roofing estimate of between $300,000 and $500,000, Davey said Whitten & Borges recently offered a reroofing estimate of $136,000.
Davey further said the old hospital is not in bad shape.
“I don’t believe our community leaders would have left us a bad building,” said Davey.
•Regarding comments about the commissioners not having listened to the public, which did not support a remodel of the old hospital, Davey said she has and always does listen.
“I have done this very well,” said Davey.
Additionally, at the Nov. 15 meeting, Crago had also pointed out that the resolution for the decision on the remodel was the only document left out of the online packet for that week. In her comments this week, Davey said the commission was still discussing the resolution at that time and the practice of putting the agenda documents online has been “a tremendous amount of work for us.” She also said commissioners are not required to have every resolution on every agenda.
Crago also pointedly highlighted the timing of the decision, with him set to take office at the start of the year. Davey said it was simply a matter of being fiscally responsible and having the money to proceed.
“I don’t want the county to go in debt,” said Davey.
Davey did acknowledge that there is asbestos in the old hospital but “we don’t believe there is a lot” and a professional was brought in to evaluate. That professional was Northern Industrial Hygiene, Inc. which was brought in 2005 by the Stillwater Community Hospital.
Commissioner Jerry Dell referred to 2001 when Billings Clinic and the Hospital Association “was moving fast and hard” to get a new facility. Dell said it was clear the public wanted a new hospital and also wanted the Meadowlark Assisted Living Center to remain open. Dell also said Billings Clinic would not commit to keeping Meadowlark open for five more years, saying “That’s why we did what we did.”
Additionally Dell said that between himself, Davey and Commissioner Dennis Shupak, there was 28 years of experience in the commissioners’ office, which means the public has confidence in what they are doing.
DELL'S “TIRED OF GETTING BEAT UP.”
Dell, who did not run for re-election, also said people have asked him why he did not seek to retain his seat.
“All you have to do is read the newspaper and you’ll know why I didn’t run. I’m tired of getting beat up,” said Dell.
Dell referred to an article in last week’s News in which citizen Jim Movius told Dell he did not “believe that the commissioners have the skill sets and knowledge necessary to understand the risks involved in the remodel project.” The exchange between the men came after last week’s agenda meeting when Dell asked to speak with Movius in the hallway. Dell berated Movius in front of several people, saying Movius had insinuated he was a liar. Minutes earlier, during the agenda meeting, Movius had asked the commissioner to reconsider the resolution to go forward with the old hospital renovation and put the matter to a vote to “show good faith.” Movius said if the commissioner did not do so, it would mean they didn’t care what they people say.
ASBESTOS IN THE OLD HOSPITAL
Northern Industrial Hygiene, Inc. was hired by the Stillwater Community Hospital in 2005.
The purpose of the study was to identify ”friable and nonfriable suspect asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM), to identify and assess mold-impacted building materials and components, and to identify fluorescent light fixtures, tubes and PCB ballasts,” according to the study. More specifically, the study was intended to “determine the impact of these materials on the renovation design, and to identify materials that might present health risks to renovation workers,” according to the study.
At that time Stillwater Community Hospital was preparing for onsite renovation/expansion. Those plans were scrubbed by the financial impact on building supplies and costs caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The study found the following:
•Of the 27 suspected asbestos-containing building materials sampled, seven contained asbestos, including the asphalt roofing material, straight run insulation on the heating and domestic lines, the mudded pipe fitting for domestic lines, the boiler breeching and floor tile.
•Elevated levels of mold were present in the attics and the hallways beneath the attics, including the upper portion of the roof trusses.
•Five of the six different types of fluorescent light fixtures had ballasts that contained PCBs.
There were a total of 88 fluorescent PCB-containing ballasts.
The asbestos abatement cost estimate at that time was $28,709.
Northern also recommended that before any of the asbestos containing materials were disturbed, that an accredited asbestos abatement designer design a plan and that once the work is done, a third party be brought in to make certain all materials were in fact successfully removed and the air quality was at an “acceptable level,” according to the report.
Northern also recommended that the entire facility be evaluated for mold and the roof trusses either be sanded or removed.
The report notes the scope of study is solely for the Stillwater Community Hospital.
It is unclear if anything has been done about the issues raised in the report.
When asked in October 2015 about the matter, Commissioner Maureen Davey said “the county has not been given any further information on this inspection report from the hospital.”