At Tuesday evening’s meeting the Borough Assembly approved the Wrangell Medical Center’s replacement hospital facility budget for nearly $29.4 million. In 2011 the amount was approved as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget and fits in the scope of the project’s awarded Certificate of Need. WMC Board President Mark Robinson requested that the City and Borough of Wrangell increase the budget by nearly $1.8 million. City Manager Timothy Rooney says at this time the City has not received additional funding from the state for the project and he says it would not be responsible to approve an increased budget.
“As the Borough Manager I can’t recommend that you approve a budget that is $1.75 million above of what we have funds for. That is not something that we do. I believe if you begin working toward that end with a budget that is above, sooner or later you’re going to have to figure out where you are going to get that money from,” he says.
Currently the total cost of the working budget is approximately $31.1 million. WMC and the City of Wrangell are working to review the project’s budget in order to meet the approved amount.
As a result of the project’s budget the Assembly approved three to two the Hospital Building Committee’s recommendation for the construction of a low slope roof for the new hospital facility. The approved design consists of membrane roofing with a 20-year warranty. Members of the Assembly and City Staff agreed a low slope roof in Southeast’s wet and rainy climate is not the most desirable option but Mayor Jeremy Maxand says it ultimately fits the time constraint of the USDA loan as well as financial scope of the project.
“My feeling is that this is not the hospital that the people of Wrangell deserve but this is certainly the hospital the people of Wrangell are going to get. And the process that we have had to go through to get here has been far from perfect. Although we have tried as a body to make sure that we bring this project in alignment with our codes, ordinances, laws, legal review and public conversation, ultimately we are going to have to make a decision that a lot of people and myself are not going to like,” he says.
Maxand recommends that annual hospital revenue is set aside to repair the roof in the future, once the 20-year warranty expires. In addition, members of the Assembly and City Staff urged for more research to be done on the roof’s warranty. WMC Board President Mark Robinson suggested implementing a maintenance program to help with the longevity of the roof.
“The material life is about 100 years on these. The 20 year life is a guessing game. They have a roof in Ketchikan on part of their hospital that is 50-years-old and they’ve had some problems. At our construction committee meetings we’ve talked about a phase maintenance program. We have a program now at the medical center for the roof. It just doesn’t stay there. It stays there because we have constant maintenance and the new building will be the same way,” he says.
The City and Building Committee’s next step will be to move forward with the design and bid process. The City has until June 1st to act on its loan from the USDA. If progress is not made, the City of Wrangell could potentially lose the $24 million loan. The next Borough Assembly meeting is scheduled for Tuesday March 6th at 7 p.m. at City Hall.