07/07/14 — Cherry Hospital opening is delayed

View Archive

Cherry Hospital opening is delayed

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 7, 2014 1:46 PM

Full Size


The new Cherry Hospital, a three-story, 410,000-square-foot psychiatric hospital next to the State Employees Credit Union on West Ash Street, appears to be ready to move in but officials just got the word that will likely not happen until 2015.

Construction on the new Cherry Hospital has been plagued with delays from the start, with officials confirming this week the opening will likely be pushed into 2015.

Luckey Welsh, chief executive officer at Cherry, said the project will be more than 18 months later than the original target completion date.

"As I understood it, when the project was conceived and they signed the contract we were to be complete in 2012. Now here we are in 2014. So that's about 18 months," he said. "We haven't moved in yet."

Construction on the three-story, 410,000-square-foot psychiatric facility, located next to the State Employees Credit Union on West Ash Street, began in 2010. Its design includes a 316-bed facility housing residential patient care units, therapy and medical facilities and administrative offices.

At the outset, the project was slated to be finished by late 2012. A variety of delays pushed that deadline to the spring of 2013, including problems with subcontractors. The original project manager also quit, and a series of bomb threats forced work stoppage.

In March 2013, officials announced the project was four or five months behind schedule and was not expected to be completed until the end of that summer, with a move-in date slated for December.

Earlier this past spring, Welsh said staff at Cherry were excitedly anticipating seeing the project come to fruition over the summer.

That was before the latest delay, although state officials remain tight-lipped about the reason.

Calls to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the state hospitals, were not returned.

In an e-mail from Kirsti Clifford, press assistant in the office of communications with DHHS, she wrote, "DHHS continues to work with the contractor, Archer Western, to complete the new Cherry Hospital. The contractor has previously reported issues with the subcontractors," referring any inquiries to Archer Western.

Calls to Archer Western Contractors, the Chicago-based company, which also has an office in Charlotte, were not returned. An administrative assistant said that Jeremy Scharpenberg, North Carolina area manager at the company since the hospital project began, no longer works with the company.

Welsh has experience with large construction projects but said he has not been given any specifics.

"The way the state does their building, I'm not in charge of the building itself, the construction," Welsh said. "It's a division in Raleigh (the Division of Property and Construction). Those are the folks that know the reason for the delay.

"Over the period of time they have had some difficulties with subcontractors. I'm not privy to the details of it but they do keep me informed when they might be getting close. We have been hoping to move for a long time. It's been very disappointing."

Luke Hoff, director of DHHS's division of property and construction, shrugged off any concerns, suggesting the 18-month delay in the projects scheduled "is nothing new."

"The contractor continues to work with DHHS to complete the project within 18 months of the original schedule," he said via an e-mail sent by Ms. Clifford. "While the contractor is in the final stages of construction, there is more work to be done before starting the process of moving patients from the existing Cherry Hospital. This work includes conducting final inspections, purchasing and installing equipment and training staff.

"While we do not have a firm move-in date, the contractor is working diligently to complete the new Cherry Hospital as soon as possible."

At this point, the opening date for the replacement hospital appears to be a moving target.

"The target date that they have given it is they think they'll be complete in October, at which time you have to then have the state come in and inspect (it)," Welsh said. Between the inspections, checking out all the electrical and other specialized equipment, that could add on an additional two months, he said.

"We have been told it will be after the first of the year."

By the time patients move in, however, it will likely be sometime in the first quarter of 2015, Welsh projected.

"It's just behind and they have got some issues with whatever, their subcontractors or something, I don't know. It's just their responsibility," he said, adding, "We're ready to move."