Hospital commission agrees to repair Norris Street property

Thursday, November 21, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs Hospital Commission is working to improve the property at 25 Norris St.

On Monday night, the commission discussed how to fix up the home, which was returned to the commission by the Eureka Springs City Council on Oct. 28 so long as the commission maintains and improves it. Chairman John House said he recently explored the property with commissioner Barbara Dicks, saying Dicks has been working on a list of everything that needs to be done to improve it.

Dicks said Kim Stryker, assistant to the mayor, has already gotten the ball rolling to return the property to the commission. The utilities are in the commission's name, Dicks said, and she's been working with various people to assess the problems at the property. Dicks said she had hoped to turn the water on this week but that's not how things have turned out.

"I thought, 'Well, I better have a plumber there in case there's leaks,' " Dicks said, "and it just kind of snowballed. So the water is one of the last things we'll do, along with the furnace."

The first thing the commission needs to do, Dicks said, is rent a dumpster and remove the carpet and tiles from the downstairs area. It costs $130 to rent a small dumpster for a week, Dicks said.

"But maybe if we're going to do the carpet and the walls that need to be torn down, we need a little bigger one," Dicks said.

Then the floors will need to be cleaned to remove the mold, Dicks said, along with the walls. She said she contacted a mold remediation specialist who recommended removing certain walls before moving forward with the mold removal. That's so the commission will know exactly where mold is located, Dicks said. She said it should cost around $3,000 to remove all the mold.

"Until the walls are torn out downstairs and in the upstairs bedroom, he won't know what's inside the wall," Dicks said. "We'll have to have a carpenter remove the walls and some flooring."

Dicks said she's not sure about how long it will take to complete the work.

"That all has to be coordinated and the mold guy said there's a light shining through somewhere in the cinder-block wall that needs to be fixed," Dicks said, "and we need to have someone dig a ditch and put in a French drain and there's no gutters on that side where the water's coming in."

Dicks continued, "Those things need to be done so that once the mold is gone and it's all clean, it doesn't come back. After all that is done and the walls are out, he may need to treat mold the second time, then have the gas turned on and the heater."

The heater shouldn't be turned on until the end of the project, Dicks said, to avoid blowing mold spores around. She said the plumbing needs to be fixed, too.

"They can run new plumbing just bathroom to bathroom with new pipes," Dicks said, "and they don't have to do the whole house. They would need to repair the pipes between the upstairs and downstairs and probably put a new toilet upstairs."

"So we've got our work cut out for us," House said.

There are some positives, Dicks said. She said the previous occupant of the property put in a new sewer line, saying the gas furnace is fairly new as well.

"There's some good things," Dicks said.

House said it sounds as if the commission needs to hire a project manager to take the repairs on and Dicks agreed. Commissioner Christopher Baranyk suggested putting the work out for bid and community member Dick Titus said that's a good idea. Titus, who worked maintenance on the hospital in the 1990s, said it's important to put someone in charge who knows what they are doing.

"I recommend you get a general contractor who is licensed, bonded and insured," Titus said. "So if he doesn't finish it, you can sue him."

Titus said the commission could seal off the downstairs area after removing all the mold. Baranyk moved to repair the property so that the commission can use the upstairs portion and leave the upstairs portion unfinished but in healthy condition at this time, and the commission agreed to do so.

Commissioner Leva Murphy then moved for House to appoint a subcommittee to write a bid proposal, which would be sent to Mayor Butch Berry to review before advertising for bids. The commission would open the bids at its next regular meeting, Murphy said. The commission unanimously approved the motion.

House said the property could be used for a couple of purposes. It could serve as an office for the commission, he said, where files would be stored in one place. Another option, House said, is to use the property as lodging for Alliance Management Group representatives when they are in town. That would help the commission cut down on expenses, House said.

Also at the meeting, House updated the commission on the termination of the lease agreement with Allegiance Health Management. The commission agreed to work with Alliance Management Group at a special called meeting Nov. 9, and House said the commission's attorney is working with Alliance to draw up a contract.

"One of the things included was that anything they do will be in our name as far as licenses and credentialing," House said, "because one of the things we're dealing with now is Allegiance actually has all that stuff, so we're just landlords."

House continued, "At least for the duration of our involvement with Alliance, we'll no longer be landlords. We'll actually be the true owners of the hospital and the operation, and we're just paying them to operate it for us."

The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, at the ECHO community room.

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