07/21/09 — Eastern Region Hospital moves forward

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Eastern Region Hospital moves forward

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 21, 2009 1:46 PM

Work on the new Eastern Region Hospital in Goldsboro -- the eventual replacement for Cherry Hospital -- has been slowed while state officials try to figure out how to cut approximately $7.1 million from the construction budget.

However, said Terry Hatcher, director of the Division of Property and Construction of the Department of Health and Human Services, they're currently working to make sure the reduction -- from $145.5 million to approximately $138.3 million -- will not affect the project's scope.

"We're having to look at it and see what changes we can make that will bring it under budget," Hatcher said. "We were in final construction drawings, and being so far along makes it hard to make changes now. This will set us back a bit."

But, he said, officials are working to make sure the cuts do "not impact the functionality of the hospital, its durability or the safety for patients and staff."

"We do not want to impact the functionality and quality of the building," he added.

Hatcher explained that the necessary cost savings could be found in such areas as building materials, space adjustments or changes to the heating and air conditioning system. He does not expect the size of the hospital to be significantly impacted.

"There's a lot of different things to look at," he said, adding, however, that officials were just beginning to go through that process. "I would think at this point there's no way we'll be able to begin any construction until sometime next year."

He said delaying the project and waiting to see if more funding became available in the future was not an option.

"I don't think that's what they (legislators) had in mind. If they wanted us to halt the project they could have pulled all the funding," Hatcher said. "The project will be built. The bid environment is very good right now. Putting it on hold would not be a good idea right now."

Besides, he added, "it's not just our project."

The bill recently approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor reducing the hospital's construction budget cut funding to a total of 31 major projects, including ones at state universities and correctional facilities.

In the meantime, Hatcher added, the state is still moving forward in terms of connecting the site to utilities such as water, sewer and electric lines.

And as part of that process, on Monday night, the Goldsboro City Council approved as part of its consent agenda the scheduling of a public hearing on the contiguous annexation of the state-owned property on the north side of West Ash Street between U.S. 117 and the Little River. The annexation process is voluntary -- property owners signed a petition requesting it -- and the public hearing will be held on Aug. 3.

-- News-Argus staff writer Ken Fine contributed to this report.