Release Date: September 19, 2010

Cloquet hospital board OKs bids for expansion project

Finance & Commerce Daily Newspaper

The board of directors at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet has approved bids on a 77,000-square-foot expansion.

General contractors on the $20 million construction project are the Oscar J. Boldt Construction Co. and Cloquet-based Ray Riihiluoma Inc., hospital CEO Rick Breuer said Tuesday.

"We approached both contractors to work together on this project."

Community Memorial's project will include a three-story addition on the south end of the hospital and a one-story addition on the north end. Breuer expects groundbreaking to occur later this fall, contingent on the hospital securing final financing and regulatory approvals for the project.

Ron Hanson, executive vice president and general manager of Oscar Boldt Co.'s Minnesota operations, said he expects the hospital construction project to average about 50 workers until its anticipated completion in early 2012.

"It is a very positive project for not only the community but the two contractors involved," Hanson said.

Breuer said the expansion will include space for, among other things, a specialty clinic for non-primary physicians, new patient care rooms, an infusion-therapy clinic (for chemotherapy and blood transfusions) and a new dialysis center.

Another big improvement: a new cafeteria and kitchen that will enable seating for about 200 people, about 10 times the space of its current facility, Breuer said. Also, the project will enable the hospital to house a new education center that will be available for staff training and public meetings, he said.

Holly Butcher, Cloquet community development director, previously told Finance & Commerce that the hospital expansion project will make it more "customer friendly." She explained that part of the expansion plans call for separating visitor and staff parking and enabling medical supply trucks to make deliveries to the back side of the hospital.

Total project cost, including new furnishings and professional services, is estimated at $25 million, Breuer said.

The hospital's second round of expansion is part of a multi-phase improvement program that might total more than $60 million, Breuer said.

In 2004, CMH completed a $15 million building project, the largest renovation project since the hospital was built. That phase 1 project was about 65,000 square feet, expanding Community Memorial's critical care and diagnostic services.

At some point, possibly within the next 10 years, the hospital is interested in renovating its 88 bed long-term care nursing home too, Breuer said.

"The (nursing home) building is starting to get old," he noted.

But Breuer said he is inclined to wait on that project until the hospital has a better idea of what innovation in nursing home care design takes place for the Baby Boomer generation.

"It will take several years to settle into our new space and absorb all this debt before we come back for another phase" of development, Breuer said.

Founded in 1958, Community Memorial Hospital is a 76-bed regional hospital that employs about 400 people and directly and indirectly contributes more than $40 million to the regional economy, according to its website.

Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said he expects the hospital's phase two project will create "badly needed jobs," including some additional good-paying, professional positions.

"It also gives us an opportunity for the region to have excellent health care," Ahlgren said. "This is a great opportunity for the city of Cloquet to become even more of a regional center."