HCH breaks ground for $47 million facility
When Diane Miller and her family visited Corydon in 1962, Robert P. O’Bannon, then publisher of The Corydon Democrat, took her to see Harrison County’s 12-year-old hospital on Atwood Street south of town.
‘He was so very proud of it,’ she said Sunday afternoon, as a crowd of more than 250 broke ground on a simply beautiful fall day for a brand new, $47-million facility in west Corydon.
In 1962, when O’Bannon took Miller to see the hospital, she met the administrator, Pauline Churchill, who hired the nurse on the spot.
So began Miller’s nearly 30-year tenure as director of nursing, which throughout those years encompassed myriad duties. ‘I loved it; I loved the people,’ she said.
She was just one of a slew of people who took their turn at shoveling aside some dirt Sunday to make way for construction to begin on a 40-acre field just south of Interstate 64.
HCH executive director Steve Taylor welcomed celebrants shortly after 1:30 that afternoon.
‘For 55 years our mission has been to provide for the well-being of our community,’ he said. ‘This has been accomplished by the provision of health services, wellness programs, good jobs and money generated for the county from our economic activity.’
This year, Taylor said the hospital will register nearly 70,000 patients, serve 10,000 emergency patients and perform 3,000 surgeries.
‘Our workforce is 450 strong, and our yearly payroll including benefits is over $15 million,’ he said. ‘Today, the hospital’s medical staff has 115 doctors, a significant increase from the 35 on our staff in 1980. Since 1990, we have reinvested nearly $30 million in technology and facilities without tax support.
‘As you can see, the hospital has made significant contributions to Harrison County’s health, safety, quality of life and economic well being. And with diligent leadership and the future effort of many, we have only just begun.’
The hospital can continue serving the growing community for years to come, when the brand new state-of-the-art facility opens in a couple of years, Taylor said.
The old hospital cannot undergo another expansion because it’s basically landlocked and infrastructure like water and sewer capabilities are maxed out, according to early hospital reports. The new facility has been in the planning nearly four years. Taylor stressed that throughout planning, the hospital board has arrived at decisions in full agreement. ‘Every single vote has been unanimous,’ Taylor said.
Board members seated to his left nodded in agreement.
A picture of the original 1950 hospital was on display before the audience. Bulldozers stood at attention on either side of the speakers’ podium, which was backed by a banner showing an architect’s rendering of the future hospital.
The bulldozers came alive Monday, beginning excavation for the first phase of construction, which is expected to take just under two years.
The site is sandwiched between S.R. 337 on the southwest, Corydon-Ramsey Road on the east, and on the north by I-64. On Sunday, visitors turned into the field just east of the Cross of Calvary Baptist Church on S.R. 337.
‘If everything is done right, this can be the biggest day in the last 25 years’ for Harrison County, Sam Uhl, president and chief executive officer of First Harrison Bank, said as he walked from his car to the ground-breaking area (which included two tents, one with refreshments and another with hospital data). ‘It could be an absolute economic boom.’
That is, said Uhl, if costs are contained and if the community is behind the project. ‘The community has to support it for it to be successful,’ he said.
HCH chief financial officer Jeff Davis gave a brief comparison between the current hospital and its planned replacement before getting into the financial details.
‘The original hospital was 20,000 square feet, with 24 beds, all semi-private,’ he said. ‘The new Harrison County Hospital will have 143,000 square feet of finished area with another 16,000 square feet of shell space (for expansion) and 47 beds, all private rooms, and a greatly expanded ER, surgery and outpatient department.’
The original hospital employed 15 people when it opened; the new one will start with some 450 employees (‘If we keep going at that rate, we will employ over 12,000 people 55 years from now,’ Davis said to laughter).
Perhaps the best part for property tax payers, Davis said, is that the facility will be built and equipped without relying on property taxes, either initially or to guarantee repayment of the loan.
Financing includes a $12 million contribution from Caesars’ riverboat tax payments and another $5 million from the Harrison County Community Foundation, each to be paid in equal amounts over three years.
(The Foundation’s assets now total more than $50 million. The funding also comes from riverboat revenue, including a $5 million gift when Caesars received the gaming license in May 1996 from the state and incentive payments made monthly since the boat opened in late 1998. The assets also include individual endowments and income from investments.)
The remaining $30 million to complete the project will be financed through a bond sale, Davis said.
‘The bond issue for the new hospital will be backed entirely by the revenue of Harrison County Hospital, and will not have a property tax back-up of any kind,’ he said.
The hospital has already invested $700,000 on the construction site. In addition, Davis said, excavation and construction will cost about $29.5 million (about $2 million less than projected six months ago) and new high-tech equipment, such as completely digital imaging, is projected at $9 million. Architectural costs, financing and other costs which don’t involve ‘bricks and mortar’ are expected to total $4.6 million. A contingency of $3.2 million brings the total to $47 million.