Polk extends St. Luke’s lease for 99 years

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Groundbreaking for expansion Nov. 29

St. Luke’s Hospital has the go ahead for its expansion with the Polk County Board of Commissioners extending the lease of the property for 99 years.

Commissioners met Monday, Nov. 19 and approved an addendum to the hospital lease until 2111, or 99 years from now.

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The groundbreaking on the hospital addition is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 29 at 3:30 p.m. The public is invited to celebrate the hospital’s addition of a six bed patient wing and rehabilitation center.

St. Luke’s CEO Ken Shull attended the commissioner meeting and said the hospital has selected BB&T for the loan have almost $2 million in philanthropy for the project. Shull said the total project including all the financing and construction costs is $5.6 million.

Commissioners approved the lease extension unanimously, with commissioner chair Ray Gasperson noting that it seemed so simple on Monday after so much discussion last year.

The hospital initially requested that the county deed over the hospital land in order to secure a loan. After some research, the county hired attorney John Crill out of Raleigh, who specializes in hospital financing in order to give advice on what options the county had.

Commissioners discovered that in order to dispose of any county-owned property, the county would have to put the property out to bid.

The long-term lease ended up being the best option in order for St. Luke’s to secure financing for the expansion.

The county’s 2008 lease with St. Luke’s was scheduled to end in 2028. The addendum to the lease commissioners approved extends the 2028 date to 2111.

Shull said the hospital is about to go out for construction and site bids. He said last year the construction should take about a year to complete.

The project will include a 15,000 square foot addition with six patient rooms and combining the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient services.

St. Luke’s Hospital began in 1928 when the nonprofit corporation was formed. In 1929, a 25-bed hospital opened on Carolina Drive in Tryon, with 230 patients being treated in the first year. The Carolina Drive hospital, now known as the Jervey-Palmer building, was expanded in the 1950s-1960s. The hospital was declared unsafe for any more additions in 1966. In 1968, Polk residents approved a bond to raise $1.5 million for a new hospital.

In 1969, with $20,000, the St. Luke’s Auxiliary purchased 40 acres of land off Hwy. 108 in Columbus and donated 14.13 acres to Polk County for the construction of a new hospital. The hospital donated the old hospital land and building (Jervey-Palmer building) to the county, which was used as county offices for approximately 40 years. The county has since vacated the Jervey-Palmer building with purchases of other buildings and the construction of a new department of social services building in Mill Spring.

The new hospital cost $3.1 million and in 1972, the 75-bed facility opened.

The planned orthopedic expansion will be the first upgrade to the hospital since 1991, when a six-bed intensive care unit was added.

Other phases of expansions are planned for the hospital, including a second story for the orthopedic addition.