OLBH job plans open old wounds

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2004

It was announced as a positive sign of growth in Russell, Ky., but for some across the Ohio River the deal was a painful reminder of what could have been.

Last week, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and the Ashland Alliance announced that the former Ashland Oil building at 1000 Ashland Drive in Russell, Ky., had been renamed Bellefonte Centre and that OLBH would relocate several non-clinical departments to the facility.

"The building and its available parking are well suited for medical office space and provides convenience for those who desire to be located on the hospital's now expanded campus," Mark Gordon, OLBH CEO, said in a written statement.

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"The hospital currently is celebrating its 50th year of service to the community. I can't imagine a better way to begin our next 50 years than by this expansion of our campus. Bellefonte Centre will provide physicians prime medical office space at a very competitive cost, which keeps medical care more affordable for those who seek the services of our superior medical staff."

But on this side of the Ohio River, the move left many city and county officials feeling disappointed because of the possibilities it could have meant for Lawrence County.

In June 2003, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and the city of Ironton announced plans to move 50 administrative positions to the Ironton City Center. The deal never happened and officially fell through earlier this year.

New hospital CEO Mark Gordon, who was hired in January to replace Bob Maher after he resigned, said at the time that the project was only in the investigation stages and was never close to a done deal.

But local officials disagreed, so this latest deal left some with a bad taste.

"I think it is a shame. I think that they had the support and commitment from the citizens, administration and officials of Ironton," said Councilman Jesse Roberts.

"I think it was preplanned and I think Mr. Gordon got what he wanted. Once again, Ironton was slighted."

Saying he was disappointed, but not surprised, Roberts said he still hopes the hospital decides to do something with the former River Valley Hospital that it purchased in Ironton.

"I am still waiting for the Blue Ribbon Committee to make a recommendation on what they want to do with the property," he said. "They need to do something to allow it to be utilized by the citizens to be a productive part of Ironton again."

On the county level, Commissioner Jason Stephens tried to take the high road.

"I have nothing to say that I haven't already said before," Stephens said. "Does it surprise me? No. It is just disappointing. Again. We just have to move forward as a community."

Attempts to seek comment from Gordon Friday were unsuccessful.

According to the news release, the remaining space in Bellefonte Centre is available to physicians for lease or purchase to use as medical office space.

The Ashland Alliance has actively sought tenants since Ashland Inc. moved from the facility in 1999. OLBH will initially occupy 16,000 square feet of Bellefonte Centre.