Fredonia board sees hospital plan

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Marc Romanowski, Brooks-TLC Hospital System counsel, gives a presentation to the Fredonia Village Board Tuesday about the proposed hospital on East Main Street. An artist’s rendering of the new hospital building is to his left.

Representatives from Brooks-TLC Hospital System presented their preliminary plans for a new Brooks Memorial Hospital to the Fredonia Village Board on Tuesday.

Marc Romanowski, an attorney retained by Brooks-TLC for work on its hospital plans, described the 38-acre parcel fronting on East Main Street as backing up to the property of Lucky Lanes and Wal-Mart on Route 60.

The old building on site close to East Main Street, formerly used by Cornell Cooperative Extension, will be used to store maintenance equipment.

A new building will be constructed for the hospital — envisioned to include 25 beds for patients, an emergency room with 11 beds, and outpatient services. “The hospital sits in excess of 900 feet back of the road (East Main Street),” Romanowski said.

The attorney addressed concerns about traffic flow in the area, especially after the state Department of Transportation puts in a roundabout at the nearby intersection of routes 20 and 60.

“We’ve already been working with DOT on traffic issues, especially in light of the roundabout,” Romanowski said, noting a study on the matter would be made available to the village shortly. “We don’t anticipate any significant impacts to traffic.”

The project will require village Planning Board site plan approval. Also, “It will require an unusual variance on the setback due to the orientation of the project” from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Romanowski said. By law, public hearings on those issues must be held before those boards. The tentative dates for those hearings are the next ZBA meeting on Feb. 12 and the next Planning Board meeting Feb. 20.

Construction on what is expected to be an 18-month project is tentatively scheduled to begin in the spring.

Two East Main Street residents spoke of concerns about the hospital during the public comments portion of the meeting. “Most of them are centered around traffic concerns,” said one of them, Ross Conti. “We are hoping that these concerns are taken into full consideration,” adding that a list of such concerns was being composed by he and his neighbors.

Regarding traffic in the area, “There’s going to be a lot of things going on that are new,” Conti said. “It’s already really difficult and at times unsafe.” He had a suggestion: “It seems essential that there be some form of ingress and egress off Route 60, not just (East Main Street).”

Mayor Athanasia Landis later said during her report that although she at first supported the hospital staying in Dunkirk, “That was close to impossible because the money that the governor had given them is not even close enough to bring the building up to code and do the upgrades that they needed to be done.”

She said the property is already off the tax roll because Cornell, a state university, owns it. “There are other businesses that could go there, for example a Target or a big store like that. That would have meant we would get some taxes, at the same time 18-wheelers would go out of that property day and night. I didn’t like that,” she said.

“Even the thought that we might lose a hospital in this area was devastating to me,” Landis added. “This is a regional hospital.”

As far as traffic and quality-of-life issues, she said village officials and the planning and zoning boards “will cross every T and dot every I to makes sure the quality of life in our community is not in any way lessened or changed.”

The mayor also had a message for Dunkirk residents worried about the loss of their hospital: “I understand people are very upset … We had something like that a few years ago. ConAgra left and with it took 450 jobs. So we know what this kind of pain is, we understand that. But from day one since I took office, everybody’s talking about regional solutions. This is the best regional solution that I can imagine. This is state-of-the-art that is going to be coming to our community.”

Trustee Doug Essek emphasized during his report time that when it comes to the hospital project, village officials will have to do what they were elected to do and address their constituents’ concerns.

“It’s only a fantastic opportunity if everything is done properly and we do all our vetting,” Essek said.