Demolish or remodel top concern of public at old hospital cleanup meeting

Marlo Pronovost
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A public meeting on the status of the old hospital cleanup last week drew strong comments by at least three community members.

WWC Engineering Project Manager Beth Famiglietti ran the meeting, which offered no new information, other than what the next several steps would be. Also present were Kevin Oliver of Northern Industrial Hygiene, all three Stillwater County commissioners, commissioner-elect Tyrel Hamilton, County Economic Coordinator Marissa Hauge and approximately eight community members.

Famiglietti gave an overview of the project that will include the cleanup of approximately 14,000 square feet of asbestos, lead-based paint, mercury and mold. More “document preparation” is needed and then the containments will be removed or remediated.

She identified the following as anticipated project tasks:

1) Cleanup Plan & ABCA

2) Community Outreach Plan

3) Work Plan (HASP, QAPP, SOPs, SAP, etc.)

4) Bid Specifications

5) Removal and Disposal Oversight Confirmation Sampling 6) Cleanup Report

7) Monthly Progress Reports, etc.

An estimated timetable puts the project completion at the end of the 2019 summer.

Hauge successfully secured a $170,000 federal grant for the cleanup, which involves a $34,000 matching grant by the county. At this point in the process, there is between $130,000 and $140,000 left to complete the project.

For at least three community members in attendance, the primary concern was if the building is going to be demolished or remodeled and if WWC had prepared cost estimates for both.

“Are you talking about demolishing this building or remodeling it?” asked Columbus resident Harry Harsha.

Harsha spoke about the building’s roof, which he had worked on at some point and said “It’s crazy to remodel that building.”

Carl Gates, who worked in the old hospital in the 1990s, spoke about how the building was in poor condition back then.

“It’s stupid to try and rebuild that building,” said Gates, adding that he has health problems now and doesn’t know if they are related to asbestos he was exposed to in the 1990s. “I tore out a lot of pipes.”

Corky Kem asked if Famiglietti had received instructions from the commissioners to look at both options. Famiglietti said they had not reached that point in the process yet, but did discuss with the audience the price differences involved in remediating a building that was going to be demolished versus a building that was going to be remodeled.

Famiglietti told the group the biggest issue between the two is the removal of mold, with the demolishing option being less expensive as it would not have to be removed.

Hamilton asked when the decision would be made between demolition and remodeling. A clear answer was not given to this question. However, Famiglietti told the group that WWC was very “mindful of everything” that was being said.

Harsha then spoke about the building’s “inferior insulation” and windows, to which Commissioner Dennis Shupak responded the plan would be to gut the interior of the building completely. Harsha said that could potentially make a remodel as expensive as a new building. The building’s foundation was then discussed, which Shupak said was good.

Gates quickly countered that, saying it was just cement.

Columbus resident Maurie Petterson reminded the commissioners that several local contractors had said the building was not worth saving. Commissioner Maureen Davey countered that a structural engineer had said the foundation was fine.

“Those structural engineers (only) did a walk-through of the building,” said Petterson.

Davey said that when the hospital had planned on remodeling in 2006, that her family had donated a lot of money for that purpose.

“At that time, the building was good enough to use as a hospital,” said Davey.

Petterson brought the conversation back around to the fact that at the public meetings held about the project a few years ago, the publicly had clearly said the old hospital was not an option they supported.

The meeting closed with assurances from WWC that all voices were being heard.

“We’ll figure it out together. Trust me. We have your backs,” said Famiglietti.

The next update meeting will take place in approximately two months.