Preston residents to vote on $31 million bond for new hospital

PRESTON – In 1929 the first phase of the current Franklin County Medical Center was built and now the hospital has structural damage and major repairs are needed to bring the facility up to state code. Several public hearings are being held throughout the county to share information about the early-November election to bond for $31 million to build a new hospital. Theodora Petterborg chairs the Preston Hospital Board and she said citizen reaction at some of the earlier meetings was mixed. “Some think we’re doing just fine with the current hospital,” she said, “or they don’t want an increase in taxes. We’ve found those who come to the meetings and hear the presentation start to understand why we’re asking for this.” She said six years ago when she joined the board there was talk about expanding the hospital. “We knew that it would have to happen because we are very limited. Finally we brought in a hospital architect. They come in and evaluate what you have. In 2004 they reported to us that our infrastructure, our flow and our site eliminated us as a good candidate (to expand). “Part of our building is 80 years old, that was the very first hospital, and we’ve added to it about every 20 years since. It was decided we probably couldn’t update and bring it up to code and if we did it would still cost a few million dollars to do it on the site where the hospital is now. It was decided the best option was to build a new one.” Petterborg said from 1930 until 2008 the Franklin County population grew 33 percent. “About the last 20 years our emergency room visits have grown 210 percent, baby deliveries were up 189 percent and the number of surgeries was up 296 percent.” She said one of the most pressing needs is a second operating room. “We have visiting surgeons and specialists who come in during the week and we are very busy during those surgical days. We can hardly get everything taken care of. If there is an emergency you almost always have to postpone someone’s surgery.” A 20-acre plot of land northeast of Preston is available if a new hospital is approved. The land is a gift from the Larry H. Miller family. “We do have that property and we have the deed in hand, free and clear,” said Petterborg. “There is the possibility, if we need it, of another five acres there that could be purchased.”

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