GOWANDA - The Urgent Care facility in Gowanda will be expanded starting this month. The Gowanda Planning Board recommended at a special meeting the site plans be approved by the Gowanda Village Board.
Architect David Zielinski from Cannon Design attended the special meeting to answer questions brought up by the planning board. Zielinski previously attended a meeting and presented site plans to the board where questions arose.
Since it was announced Tri-County Memorial Hospital will not be rebuilt, officials from TLC are proposing to expand the current Urgent Care facility on Commercial Street. The expansion will see an addition of exam rooms, mammography, ultrasound and physical therapy services.
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
Architect David Zielinski of Cannon Design discussed changes made to site plans requested by the planning board.
Two of the concerns were environmental issues and handicap parking spaces at the site. Code Enforcement Officer Gary Brecker said there is no hazardous waste on the premises. Zielinski said the number of handicap accessible parking spaces would be a total of five, an increase from the original three parking spaces.
Residents also had a concern about the current driveway width. Many residents said two vehicles cannot pass at the entrance on Commercial Street. Zielinski said the driveway, currently around 16 feet wide, will be widened to 20 feet.
"At the entry way is a narrow spot which is basically the constriction the site experiences. Fisher is our site designer and they came with the conclusion widening it there would decongest the entry way ... and stop creating a bottle neck," Zielinski said.
Zielinski said a reduced speed can be posted and lines painted on the driveway to distinguish between the two lanes can be part of the site plans. Brecker said he drives past the parking lot multiple times daily and never noticed a traffic problem.
"I don't think we have a serious traffic issue as long as we make the entrance and the exit safe," he said.
Another stipulation the village wanted to ensure was the facility will remain as an outpatient facility. Linda Summers, chief operating officer of TLC, said the facility will remain as such. Summers also said TLC is the official owner of the building and they closed on the property late August. Since TLC is a nonprofit organization, the planning board recommended to the village board to look into a PILOT program with TLC. Summers also said TLC is looking into expanding the facility's current hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"We're looking to expand hours of operation if we can. It's just a matter of utilization, whether it's a matter of if we feel we need that availability in the community and if we can feel we can staff that," she added.
Many residents are concerned about the facility not having an emergency room. Summers said she understood where the community is coming from on wanting a hospital.
"We are struggling to keep the doors open at Brooks and at Lake Shore. We subsidize our emergency department to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars just to keep it open. It's a population issue. It's a matter of there aren't enough dollars coming in for the patients who use our emergency room. If we divest some of that to another location, then none of the three will be successful," Summers said.
Planning Board member Janet Vogtli asked if TLC had acquired all the funding. Summers said they were told they had $2 million awarded from a state HEAL grant.
"They've approved the full $2 million. The original award was $1.782 million. There was an additional $300,000. They haven't given us that piece (the $300,000) in writing but they are telling us we are going to get that piece. If we don't we'll probably have to reconfigure some services. The structure of the building won't change," Summers added.
The Planning Board recommended the Village Board approve the project and also look into a potential payment in lieu of taxes programs since TLC is a nonprofit organization. The village held a special meeting immediately following the planning board meeting. The village board approved the site plans and gave the OK for the project to move forward.
Construction is proposed to begin on Sept. 9 with a notice to proceed with construction work starting on Sept. 16. Shell work will begin early October with interior work starting at end of October. The entire project has a completion date of Dec. 30. Construction hours will be restricted to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for exterior work. Once the exterior work is completed, interior work will not be restricted.
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