Brooks officials meet with Fredonia, Pomfret leaders to reiterate plan

Hospital issues

After a recent meeting with Brooks-TLC officials, Pomfret Town Supervisor Dan Pacos and Fredonia Mayor Doug Essek are confident the organization will still build a new Brooks Memorial Hospital in Fredonia.

Pacos revealed the meeting during his supervisor’s report at the Pomfret Town Board meeting Wednesday. “We had a lengthy meeting,” he said. “They shared a lot of information with us, some that isn’t ready for publication.”

Reached on his cell phone Wednesday night, Essek confirmed the meeting and stated that it was with Brooks/TLC President and CEO Mary LaRowe and Chris Lanski, chairman of Brooks/TLC’s board of directors.

“They’re still moving forward with the hospital currently,” he said. “It was kind of a briefing for new leaders.” Essek and Pacos were both newly elected to their positions in November and started work in January.

Essek and Pacos agreed that the Brooks/TLC officials attributed the failure to start construction to a delay in approvals by various state regulatory agencies. Brooks/TLC wanted to begin site work sometime in the fall of 2019, but that didn’t materialize.

Essek reminded the OBSERVER that Brooks/TLC had to begin its site approval process all over again after it backed out of a plot in the town of Pomfret and settled on its current preferred plot, a former Cornell Cooperative Extension vineyard on East Main Street.

Getting approval for a second entrance on Route 60, which was not in the original site plan, caused a further delay, Fredonia’s mayor added.

Despite the red tape, Pacos and Essek expressed confidence Wednesday the hospital will get built.

“They are confident that things are going to move forward quickly,” Pacos told the Pomfret board Wednesday. “If it seems like they’re not forthcoming, it’s because they’re not able to share some information yet.”

“They’re still on track for moving forward,” Essek agreed. However, he reiterated a concern that he also expressed at the Fredonia Board of Trustees meeting Monday: Brooks/TLC’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) approval for work on the site might be about to expire.

“I’m not entirely sure when the SEQRA is expiring, it should be in the next month or two,” Essek said.

Another point of the meeting Essek and Pacos agreed on was that the Brooks/TLC officials emphasized they want to reuse the current Brooks Hospital site on Central Avenue in Dunkirk. It’s unclear whether that means marketing it to someone else or keeping it under the Brooks/TLC umbrella. Essek noted a Brooks/TLC committee is devoted to figuring out how the building should be reused.

“We discussed the importance of maintaining a health care facility in our area for our growth … and for our university too,” Essek said, emphasizing that a new hospital will help the county’s economic development efforts.

The mayor concluded to the OBSERVER Wednesday that he was “very hopeful” the hospital will get built in Fredonia, “unless something out of my control (happens), that wasn’t portrayed to me.”

However, Essek admitted to some nervousness.

“I’m getting very antsy because I know a lot of dates are coming up,” he said. “It’s like with Athenex, you can’t be sure until they start digging and do construction. Once that happens, we’ll all feel a little better.”