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Cold weather won't freeze hospital construction work

By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 12, 2012

St. John’s Medical Center’s expansion and renovation project is staying on target financially and progressing as scheduled, hospital staffers say.

Construction of a new obstetrics department, three new operating rooms and a new central energy plant will continue through the winter so work can be completed by next summer.

The central energy plant has been framed and is being covered by a large tent just as colder weather sets in.

Steel for the surgery rooms and the obstetrics department will be erected in the coming weeks. Those portions of the project also will be covered.

“The reason for the tent is to keep the workers out of the elements and allow us to keep working through the winter months,” said Jim Johnston, facilities director of the hospital.

The energy plant, which must be completed before other portions of the project can operate, is on schedule to be completed first, Johnston said.

The plant extends from the back of the hospital toward the National Elk Refuge and will house a new steam boiler.

Groundwork for the new oncology pavilion also is under way. That portion of the hospital is scheduled to be complete by next fall.

“We’re on target time-wise, and we’re on budget money-wise,” Chief Operating Officer Gary Trauner said. “Most importantly, we’ve done it with minimal disruption to our patients and staff.”

Work on the project halted about a year ago, after costs for steel, mechanical and electrical work began to run higher than expected.

The hospital board then decided on a scaled-down version of the project and set a cap on its cost, with the help of construction manager J.E. Dunn.

In July, the board approved a maximum price of $27.8 million, $1.9 million higher than previous estimates.

The board also is considering another emergency generator to back up the existing one.

The issue came up at a board meeting in November.

Some members cited the problems hospitals on the East Coast had with electricity during superstorm Sandy and said similar issues could arise for St. John’s if an earthquake were to hit Jackson Hole.

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