Imagineering: MVC weighs hospital sites
A Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) subcommittee, created to identify possible alternative locations it would like Martha's Vineyard Hospital officials to consider as alternatives sites for a new hospital, met this week to review a list of 30 properties, none of them necessarily for sale.
The list was compiled by the MVC staff and presented to the subcommittee members in the form of a large map spread out on a table Monday evening and color-coded as a means to identify undeveloped and or potentially available parcels. Mark London, MVC executive director, emphasized that the list was tentative at best, and in most cases the owners would be unaware of any interest on the part of the commission.
Hospital officials, engaged in a fundraising campaign to raise $42 million to build on the hospital's current Beach Road site, have insisted that replicating the hospital and Windemere Nursing home, even if they were given a piece of land, is not economically feasible.
In November, Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, and Tim Sweet, hospital board member and building committee chairman, met with the MVC and described the circumstances that influenced the board's decision to rebuild on the present site, including the difficulty of finding a suitable new site, and the estimated $71 million cost.
Many members of the commission were unconvinced. As a result, a subcommittee was formed to investigate possible hospital sites.
The properties identified by the commission include the 101-acre Goodale Construction Company sand pit, land within the airport business park, land owned by the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School and land owned by various individuals and towns, identified as Allan A. Debettencourt, Benjamin Hall, Nicholas Rawluk Jr., James Norton, and Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury.
According to the minutes of the MVC subcommittee's first meeting on Dec. 12, the commissioners "agreed that the blinking light intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and Barnes Road is the population/access centroid of the Island."
The committee agreed that the preferred site should be within three miles of the intersection, have good access to major roads and be a minimum of 10 acres. The interest of landowners in selling their property was not among the listed criteria.
In reviewing the list, MVC planner Paul Foley said he had omitted a site within the State Forest, an idea suggested by Robert Gilkes of Edgartown, a Chappaquiddick ferry captain. Mr. Foley said it was unlikely a piece of the forest could be made available. Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs, the Dukes County commissioners appointed MVC member, said, "As outlandish as it may sound let's not shove anything off the table."
John Best of Tisbury said a 25-acre landlocked parcel in the Southern Woodlands owned by the Oak Bluffs resident homesite committee was also overlooked. It was also included.
One sticking point for the subcommittee members, which included Chris Murphy of Chilmark, Mimi Davisson of Oak Bluffs, and John Best and Ned Orleans of Tisbury, was how to winnow the list down to several properties and after that, what next? Ms. Davisson questioned to what extent the commissioners should be involved in the analysis of properties or contacting individuals.
While some commissioners spoke about how to rank individual properties, Mr. Murphy urged the committee to move ahead speedily so as not to delay the hospital and suggested a property near the electric company in particular was desirable because of its access. He suggested a representative of the commission and the hospital could go talk to the owner "to see where we go from here."
Mr. Best said Mr. Murphy was overlooking the southern woodlands piece. But Mr. Murphy countered that he was concerned about its potential political baggage and any delays that might cause. Asked later if he had had any contact with the owner of the property, Mr. Murphy told a Times reporter, "not officially."
Behaving like a bureaucratic amoeba, the subcommittee appointed a subcommittee of Mr. Best, Mr. Strauss, and Chris Siedel, an MVC staff member, to come up with three to five sites for consideration when the committee next met. At the same time the commission staff was given the job of winnowing out the least desirable sites from the entire list.
Throughout most of the meeting Mr. Walsh and Mr. Sweet, who attended the hour-long meeting held in a hospital conference room, sat silent. The only comment came from Mr. Sweet who said that the committee members needed to consider zoning issues that could affect hospital construction.
In comments following the meeting, Mr. Orleans, the subcommittee chairman, said the committee was using the resources at its disposal to provide alternative sites for the hospital to consider. He said ultimately it will be up to the hospital to appear with a plan on a location, including the current site, and it would be up to the MVC to decide "whether location is a significant enough factor upon which to make a decision on that factor."
Mr. Orleans said he is not disregarding the financial analysis but remains unconvinced that hospital officials, who have been working on the plan for more than three years, have looked at options in depth.
Mr. Orleans said a financial analysis isn't enough. He wants a comparison of specific costs "option by option by option." He said, "The $70 million, it is almost conceptual, it doesn't relate to a specific site in a specific location."
Ms. Davisson said she would also like to see alternatives and questioned whether the hospital might not be able to move to a new location in stages over a period of years.
Following Monday's meeting, Mr. Walsh said the hospital arrived at the current plan after several public forums at which it became clear that residents were concerned about the initial cost estimates provided by the architects. Mr. Walsh said he was surprised when the MVC raised the issue of a new site and described the current process as extremely frustrating because in his view the numbers are not going to come down, only increase.
Mr. Walsh said that the hospital must go through the MVC process and if the commission decides it does not want the new hospital on the current site it will not be built. But he added, "I do not see how it can work in another place. It is not even a little risky, it is not feasible."