HSD accepts Meraux Foundation land for hospitalMar 22nd, 2010 | By Chad West | Category: Top Story
The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation signed donation documents Friday, March 12, 2010, giving the St. Bernard Hospital Services District an 11.5-acre piece of land for the new St. Bernard Parish Hospital to be located in the heart of Chalmette.
The site is on a tract of undeveloped land between the parish’s two major thoroughfares – West Judge Perez Drive and St. Bernard Highway.
The Meraux Foundation offered the land to the hospital board in January 2009 for free. Today’s acceptance of the donation by the HSD Chairman Wayne Landry ends a year long vetting of alternative sites through the completion of a half day of negotiations.
Rita Gue, the president of the Meraux Foundation and the niece of Arlene Meraux who created the foundation to do charitable works in St. Bernard, said she was very glad that the Meraux Foundation can play such an important role in continuing the parish’s strong pace of recovery.
“There’s been so much recovery already without the hospital,” she said. “Can you even imagine what’s going to happen now? These are the things that my aunt had in mind when she started the foundation many, many years ago.”
She thanked officials who had a role in the process from the beginning including Parish President Craig P. Taffaro and former Hospital Services District Chairman Danny Dysart, as well as former council members and current HSD members Landry, Ron Chapman, George Cavignac and Jim DiFatta.
Dysart, one of several who spoke and choked back tears at the enormity of the signing, said when he moved his family back to St. Bernard after Katrina, he wanted to see all basic services restored.
“This is a great day… a glorious day,” Dysart said.
“This is one of those major pieces that have been missing,” said Parish President Craig Taffaro. “There’s a reason that St. Bernard leads the way in Gulf Coast region in recovery … Because when people put their own differences aside and the needs of our parish first, we all win.”
Hospital Service District Chairman and Parish Councilman Wayne Landry agreed.
“This process is like being in labor,” Landry said. “The point is – it’s a tough, difficult process. At the end of the day, the results are beautiful.”
The official signing on Friday locks the hospital board into the 11.5-acre tract, with an option to expand to 20 acres over the next decade. The hospital board is now awaiting a final approval from the state division of administration to allow the designs to go out to bid.
Construction should be complete by the end of 2011. Although the hospital board had been holding off on formally signing the agreements for the Meraux Foundation land, the state had already begun a required environmental review process on the land that is necessary to free up $41 million in community development block grant money, dedicated from parish government, $17 million from state capital outlay secured by state Rep Nita Hutter, former state Rep. Ken Odinet and former state Sen. Walter Boasso and kept in place by Hutter, state Rep. Reed Henderson and Sen. A.G. Crowe.
Cost estimates for the hospital and a medical office complex are at about $70 million. The board has nailed down approximately $60 million in combined state and federal funds, plus the potential of additional millions from a U.S. Treasury tax credit program.