By GREG SCELLIN, Signal Editor
Despite breezy conditions and temperatures in the mid 40s, a crowd of about 500 attended the Dedication Program of the new Fillmore County Hospital (FCH). The afternoon program on Sunday, February 26, began with a Freemasons of Nebraska Cornerstone Ceremony and ended with an Open House featuring tours of the $18.5 million, 56,587-square foot, county-owned facility located on the northwest corner of the U.S. Highway bypass and F Street entrance into Geneva.
FCH Foundation President P.R. Farmer was the master of ceremonies for the program, which lasted 90 minutes and took place in front of the hospital. Masons from across the Cornhusker State (from Kimball, McCook and Ainsworth to Omaha) participated in the Cornerstone Ceremony that was requested by the FCH Board of Trustees. After the cornerstone was laid according to Masonic rites and specifications, Farmer continued with the program which featured addresses from USDA Rural Development State Director Maxine Moul and U.S. Senator Ben Nelson.
“Quality health care is important to USDA Rural Development and Nebraska’s rural residents,” Moul said. “We are very happy to assist in this very valuable asset. What a wonderful way to start health care here for the next 50 years.”
USDA Rural Development provided a loan of $12.6 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with terms of 40 years at a four percent interest rate. UMB Bank, N.A. of Kansas City, Mo. underwrote a $5.4 million bond issue and other sources completed the funding with $500,000. FCH CEO Paul Utemark has stated that he expects ongoing hospital revenue to more than be able to cover both bond repayment notes.
Nelson told the crowd he was excited to attend the dedication of the hospital, which was part of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package.
“This is a project that I’m proud to have been able to help along with the funding because it is good for the health and wealth of the people of southeast Nebraska,” Nelson said. “And, it will continue putting people to work in the future taking care of the health of the people of Geneva and those it serves from surrounding communities. Moreover, the hospital will continue contributing to the economic well being of the area because that’s what hospitals do…”
“This is a great project that will help assure the physical and economic health of Fillmore County and surrounding areas for generations to come. That means more jobs being created here in Fillmore County, which is exactly what the doctor ordered during this weak economy.”
A complete text of the Nebraska senator’s speech appears inside this edition on page 11A.
Next, Hugh F. Wilkins, who was the master of ceremonies when the original FCH was dedicated in 1961, talked about the history of the replacement hospital project beginning with voter approval and securing USDA financing.
Fillmore County voters overwhelming approved the construction of a new hospital in a Bond Election on August 10, 2010. A formal Ground-breaking Ceremony took place on October 18, 2010. Health Facilities Group was the architects for the project and Sampson Construction of Lincoln was the general contractor.
Wilkins credited Utemark with informing the public and helping spearhead the effort to make the replacement hospital project a reality in the county.
Next, Dr. John Jacobsen told several entertaining stories and anecdotes about Dr. Charles F. Ashby. Ashby passed away four years ago and was instrumental in bring Jacobsen to Fillmore County. Jacobsen also shared some personal experiences about “Doc Charles” and revelled on how well Ashby connected with his patients and always put his patients first. He also related on how community service and community pride were important to Ashby.
After Jacobsen’s turn at the podium, FCH Board of Trustees President DeBorah Hoarty talked about the 8,471 square-foot medical clinic that is attached to the new FCH. Hoarty said the FCH Board of Trustees had voted unanimously to dedicate and name the new medical clinic the Charles F. and Jean F. Ashby Memorial Medical Office Building.
The addition of the medical clinic was made possible, in part, by the successful “Finish the Campus” capital campaign. The capital campaign fund-raiser has also generated the funds necessary to add a state-of-the-art aqua therapy pool to the therapy wing at the new FCH.
Next, Fillmore County Board Chairman Albert Simacek presented the FCH Board of Trustees the hospital license for the new facility. Simacek was also joined by the mayors and board chairmen of a half-dozen Fillmore County communities to official cut the ceremonial red ribbon opening the new FCH. Patients are expected to be transferred to the new facility this Thursday with March 1 being the official opening day.
The Geneva United Methodist Choir performed at the beginning and end of the ceremony. Members of Boy Scout Troop No. 175 presented the colors during the program and Becky Jamison sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”