New hospital construction delayed

Published 11:50 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Plans to construct the new hospital in Picayune have been delayed. Instead only construction of the adjacent medical center will take place initially.

Highland Community Hospital Administrator Steve Grimm said instead of hospital construction starting shortly after beginning construction on the medical center, the hospital will be constructed at a later date. Originally construction of the new hospital was to begin about six months after the construction of the adjacent medical center began. Grimm says the current economy forced the Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg to alter plans, for Highland, which Forrest General now owns.

Dirt work for the new medical center is expected to begin in June and construction of the medical center will begin in September. It should take about a year from its anticipated September start date to complete the medical center, Grimm said. While the hospital administrator could not give a new timeline for the construction of the new hospital, he did say hint at a completion date.

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Grimm said that the Mississippi Department of Transportation is planning to widen U.S. 11 to five lanes, and to do that, MDOT requires that the hospital be scheduled for completion three years after the highway is widened. The hospital and medical center also are required to provide 100 new jobs on the lower end of the pay scale, Grimm said.

To attempt to find funds to build the hospital more rapidly, Grimm said that Forrest General is working with legislators to acquire some stimulus money. The $65 million hospital will not be built until the company is sure the hospital will be profitable and the economy has turned the corner, Grimm said.

“We can’t plunge into the deep end and find out we’re in the two-foot shallow end,” Grimm said.

Construction of the new hospital is planned to begin by 2011. However, now its construction will be a four-step plan instead of a one-step plan, Grimm said.

Local developer Carle Cooper said the development planned to take place around the hospital will include a multiple-lane road that will connect U.S. 11 with the Winn-Dixie North parking lot. The new road will come from U.S. 11 to the Winn-Dixie North shopping center parking lot just behind CVS pharmacy. Cooper said the existing movie theater will be torn down to give drivers a better view of the new road and the adjoining planned commercial development. CVS also may be torn down at a later date to make room for the road, he said.

Winn-Dixie north may expand on its west side. The movie theater is to the east-northeast of Winn-Dixie. There are no plans by Cooper to rebuild the theater.