By Frank Lewis
Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) is planning to build a multi-story outpatient facility which they say will enhance and modernize their urgent care and outpatient services. The city of Portsmouth voted Monday night to bring forth legislation to vacate an area known as Beech Alley, the north-south alley east of Waller Street between 18th Street and Kinney’s Lane.
“The request is so that the hospital can make an expansion and improvements on both sides of Beech Alley,” City Manager Derek Allen said.
Justin Clark, director of facilities for SOMC fielded questions from members of City Council.
“We’ll offer services that aren’t currently offered outside of the main hospital,” Clark said. “We’ll also be upgrading our data infrastructure for our entire facility.”
City Solicitor John Haas asked if SOMC has plans for the current and Mercy Hospital building. Clark said the buildings were to be razed.
“You know you should expect this from me when you talk about giving away our property,” Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said. “I know that we still maintain this alley. I know that we will be collecting property taxes off of it. But, it’s still ours at this moment and we just finished the discussion about the taxes and how every dollar helps, and SOMC is going to be making enough off of this. It wouldn’t hurt them to pay a fee to the city to purchase our property. They are basically moving the urgent care center they have onto the alley and then razing the urgent care center they already have. It’s not like they’re adding a new facility. We haven’t heard anything about adding any more jobs because of it. They’re merely building a new building. So I don’t think we’re out of line if we were to say why can’t we be paid for this.”
Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson took the opposite approach to the question.
“I know when I go to SOMC I don’t get anything free over there, but when we look at the jobs that SOMC provides to this community, I would definitely say that we as a Council should do whatever it takes to work with SOMC,” Johnson said. “I think we should accommodate them. And I understand what you’re saying Councilman (Meadows), but I look at the numbers and how many people your (SOMC0 employ and I’m very appreciative of you being here in our community. So I would support this.”
Clark said plans are 50-75 percent complete now and ready to move forward with construction.
“When it comes to these vacations of alley’s and stuff, I know that I have been a proponent against giving them away, but usually when I have brought forward and discussed my opinion on that is when we have had multiple property owners surrounding the properties,” Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler said. “But this time they (SOMC) own all the property.”
Council voted 5-1 to bring the ordinance forward at the next Council meeting. Only Meadows cast a no vote.
Clark said there is no definitive date set to begin the work but most likely the project will begin next year.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.