LMH committed to Eudora facility
Despite an obvious absence of physical progress, the effort to bring a medical facility to Eudora has moved forward, Lawrence Memorial Hospital CEO Gene Meyer said.
The hospital is still committed to build on the 24-acre site just off of Church Street and White Dog Road south of Kansas Highway 10, Meyer said.
“We’re still moving,” Meyer said. “It may not be visible on the outside to the local Eudoran in terms of being able to drive by and see any activity, but as far as recruitment (of physicians) and the selection of an architect, things are still moving.”
In early 2006, LMH announced plans to build a 10,000-square-foot facility to be staffed by Dr. Dan Dickerson and at least one other physician.
The timetable for construction to begin was early 2008, with doctors moving into the facility in 2009. But in March 2008, Meyer said a shortage in physicians would delay the start of construction.
What hasn’t affected the construction process is the current recession.
“LMH is similar to any other business or health care organization that is pretty concerned about what the economy is going to do and maybe what might happen in Washington as it affects healthcare,” Meyer said. “But that does not have an impact on our decision making for this project. We are still committed to Eudora.”
Physician shortages remain an issue, but Meyer said LMH has made an offer to a physician who would join Dr. Dickerson’s practice in August. And LMH also is in the final stages of deciding which architectural firm it will hire.
“What we want to do is make that choice and get started on the planning so we can move forward at the right time,” he said.
What is not so clear is exactly when that will be.
LMH wants to begin construction this summer, but that is contingent upon the resolution of the city of Eudora’s lawsuit with Douglas County Rural Water District No. 4.
In recent years, Eudora has annexed into the city property totaling about 113 acres south of Kansas Highway 10 along Douglas County Road 1061.
As a result of the city’s intent to provide water to the area, RWD No. 4 filed a lawsuit against Eudora in last September in U.S. District Court of Kansas City, Kan. under a federal law — 7 U.S.C. section 1926(b) — that states as a result of borrowing money from Farmer’s Home Administration, the district is protected from a municipality or private entity that would curtail or limit the district’s water territory or customers.
Meyer said there would be hesitation on the part of LMH to begin construction before the case was resolved.
“For obvious reasons, we need to have adequate and consistent water supply and fire protection for our site, and the clarity of that remains vague,” he said.
According to RWD No. 4 Administrator Scott Schultz, LMH has not contacted the water provider to discuss whether the 12-inch water line running through the parcel of land in question would need to be upsized to adequately serve the facility.
“We’ve made service available, so what they’re worried about is getting building permits,” Schultz said.
Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said because the city cannot tell developers wanting to build in the area what entity would provide water, developers have not attempted to acquire building permits.
Mediation during the spring failed to bring a resolution to the case, and the trial date — now set for March 17, 2009 — has been delayed twice.
But that delay might be a positive, as RWD No. 4 and the city have had correspondence during the last week regarding an out-of-court settlement.
RWD No. 4 sent a letter the Eudora City Council and Mayor Tom Pyle, proposing a new settlement wherein both parties would continue to serve customers within their political boundaries.
However, Eudora would pay RWD No. 4 $500,000 as compensation for the district releasing land “outside its political boundaries and inside the city limits of Eudora — but which also remain inside RWD4’s federally protected service area …”
Part of the land Eudora would receive is on 20th Street where the First Southern Baptist Church had planned to begin construction on a new facility this spring.
Eudora proposed that the lawyers and administrators for both sides meet. The parties will do so Monday morning.
“As entangled as this case seems to be, the sooner it gets resolved, the better,” Meyer said.