By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Construction that will close roads in the area where Mercy Hospital Joplin is being built was the focus of an open house conducted Thursday by the hospital and its contractors.
While residents in the area agree that builders have been open and accessible about plans for the project, some said they still have concerns about how quickly fire vehicles or ambulances will be able to respond to emergencies in the area when roads are closed.
Construction is on schedule for the new Mercy Hospital, which will replace tornado-demolished St. John’s Regional Medical Center. Plans call for the hospital to be completed in March 2015 near 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard.
Dozens of residents from the area attended the open house in a building at the former Messenger College to talk with hospital officials and builders, and to view designs including plans for road closings during parts of the construction project.
Starting in March, phases of the project will limit access on portions of 50th Street and Indiana Avenue to local traffic, and there will be times when portions of the streets will be closed.
“I think they’ll be able to address it, but I’m concerned about fire protection in the area of Brookwood Drive and Calvary Baptist (Church) when 50th Street is shut down,” said Brad Long, 1611 E. 50th St., a member of the Leawood Village Board of Trustees.
Dave Wunderlin, 5006 Brookwood Drive, said he is afraid that emergency crews might have to take the long way around to get into his subdivision, which is just south of the new hospital campus.
“They’re saying the fire department could come from the (Joplin) station at 33rd and Texas, but Redings Mill is a lot closer,” said Wunderlin, who is a member of the board of the Redings Mill Fire Protection District.
Both Wunderlin and his wife, Margaret, said officials connected with the project have been accessible to residents in the area and have attended meetings at residents’ homes to answer questions. Dale and Fran Owen, also trustees in Leawood, said hospital officials have attended meetings of the village board.
John Farnen, executive director of strategic projects for Mercy, said hospital officials and contractors have worked with emergency agencies in planning the street closings. He said 50th Street will be closed for six weeks, but the closing will be in the summer so there will be minimal impact on Joplin’s South Middle School on 50th Street just to the southeast of the hospital site.
“They’ll be able to come down Indiana from 44th Street,” he said.
Mike White, assistant chief of the Redings Mill Fire Department, said crews currently have a four-minute response time to the school property.
“If we have to reroute, it will add more time,” he said. “I feel like we’re both in the public safety business, and surely we can come together.”
Dan Barnowski, project superintendent with McCarthy Building Cos., general contractor on the hospital, said access for emergency vehicles can be addressed as the project moves forward.
“Our main concern is safety, and that includes safety of the residents,” he said.
Farnen also pointed out that the project will widen roads around the hospital, eliminate hills to improve sight distance, and add sidewalks.
“The roads will be safer, for people who drive and walk,” he said.
The campus, which is to include an eight-story hospital and a five-story clinic, will be built to withstand an EF-5 tornado. The 875,000-square-foot structure is estimated to cost $335 million.
MERCY HOSPITAL JOPLIN initially will have 261 beds. Plans include medical, surgical, critical care, women’s and children’s, behavioral health, and rehabilitation services.