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New hospital construction on schedule

Construction on the new Perham Memorial Hospital is right on schedule. Photo by Ashley Bergen.

A year since groundbreaking, and construction of the new $35 million Perham Memorial Hospital is right on schedule.

Scheduled to open in January of 2012, several phases of construction have already been completed, according to Perham Memorial Hospital and Home CEO Chuck Hofius.

Most of the electrical and plumbing is in, Hofius said, as well as water and sewer. About 80 percent of exterior finishes are done, Hofius said, and the big yellow wall those passing by may have seen will be completed with stone at the end of construction.

Inside, workers just finished the framing of every room and started putting up sheetrock on Nov. 15. That's another huge part of the project, Hofius said.

"As you can imagine, with a 120,000-square-foot building, that's literally months and months of sheetrocking," he said.

About 80 percent of the windows have been placed in, Hofius said, and 90 percent of the roofing is complete.

Over all, Hofius is pleased with how things are going.

"To this point we've been really lucky," he said. "There have been no major surprises. Several things are ahead of schedule."

The financing is also in place, Hofius said. The hospital sold municipal bonds to finance the project. The hospital district was approved for a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hofius said, but it was decided to sell bonds instead as a federal loan was more of a "last resort."

Funding was also provided by a local fundraising effort. The campaign collected more than $2.5 million, including $100,000 from the George Walters family; $200 from Perham-area elementary students, who conducted a penny drive; and KLN Enterprises and owner Kenny Nelson, who contributed $500,000 to the project. Management and staff also pledged matching funds of another half million dollars.

Now that the building is up with no major setbacks, the hospital district is looking forward to a grand opening during the holidays of 2011.

Hofius hopes enough of the project will be done to have an open house for the community during Christmas of next year.

The planning of the new hospital has been some 10 years in the making. The project has been on the hospital district board's strategic plan since 2001. The planning included tours of 15 different hospitals in five states. A groundbreaking was held in November of last year with several notable guests including state Sen. Dan Skogen; state House Rep. Mark Murdock, a representative from Congressman Collin Peterson's office, MeritCare officials and local officials.

The project managers are Brainerd-based Norson Construction. The new Sanford-MeritCare conglomerate will become a major leaseholder at the new Perham facility, as operator of the clinic. The merger results in a nonprofit health network with a service territory of 130,000 square miles, and 17,000 employees-including more than 800 physicians. The doctors in Perham will be Sanford-MeritCare employees, who work in East Otter Tail County under a lease arrangement between PMHH and Sanford-MeritCare.