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Hospital users give opinions of sites.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

The message that Roy Orr, CEO of McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, heard Monday from Eugene citizens: Build your new hospital in the urban center - but preferably not by Valley River Center.

About 25 people visited the first of three open houses hosted by the Springfield hospital, which hopes to select a home for a new, $80 million facility by the end of the year.

McKenzie-Willamette is considering at least a dozen sites that will give it room to grow and adequate distance from its competition, PeaceHealth, which plans to open a new regional medical center in 2007, scarcely two miles from the smaller hospital's current address.

From a list of sites proposed by Eugene, Orr said he heard support for the area south of the Willamette River and close to the convergence of Chambers Street and Highway 99/West Sixth Avenue.

Residents were more critical of a site just northeast of Valley River Center, saying the hospital would face stiff concerns about its traffic impact on an already congested area, Orr said.

After two hours of public comment, Orr said "we're no closer to narrowing the list (of sites)."

Jim Schmidt, 53, hopes the hospital will reject the Valley River Center site near his home, in favor of one that will revitalize downtown.

River Road resident Kay Hammer, 85, will go wherever the new McKenzie-Willamette ends up, although she stressed the importance of access: "It should be easy access, in an area where there's buses."

And Jim Hale, a Ferry Street Bridge resident who helped design Eugene-Springfield's metropolitan growth plan in the 1980s, supports the urban sites near Chambers Street/Highway 99 because the hospital would be at the epicenter of 150,000 people, about 10,000 more than the city's population.

Springfield Economic Development Manager John Tamulonis also attended, in part to see how his city's recommendation - 25 to 50 acres near the Willamette River in Glenwood - stacks up against the com- petition.

Springfield doesn't have deep pockets to offer financial incentives, Tamulonis said, but its knowledge of the properties making up its proposed site could speed the process to approval.

"We know a lot of the issues that would allow development to occur," he said.

Sites will be eliminated over the coming weeks as the hospital tackles the issues of expense, location, size and availability, McKenzie-Willamette spokeswoman Rosie Pryor said.

Officials hope to open the new hospital by 2006.

WHAT'S NEXT

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center will host two more open houses this week to discuss plans for a new $80 million hospital. Each will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Wednesday: Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard St., Eugene

Thursday: Jesse Maine Room, Springfield City Hall, 225 Fifth St.

For more information: 726-4789
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Title Annotation:Health; McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center officials listen to public comments
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 11, 2003
Words:460
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