Recycling hospital site would benefit all

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ironton's story is a feel-good tale worthy of Hollywood because of the town's and its residents' refusal to give up. In recent years, more than 3,000 jobs have disappeared but that has only seemed to strengthen the resolve of those who share a deep passion for the city.

That perseverance and passion is starting to pay dividends. Now, it looks as if a group of five volunteers may be able to accomplish something that no one else has been able.

Since January 2001, the former River Valley Hospital building has sat empty, yet another shadow of Ironton's prosperous past.

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Many people have pined for the former hospital to reopen or for some savior to swoop in and start a new health care agency at its location. That has not happened, but now the Ironton Port Authority and leadership at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, which purchased the aging facility in September 2002 for $5 million, are working together in an attempt to open new doors and create new opportunity.

The IPA has officially asked to be given the property for economic development so the building or the site could be recycled to again be a vital part of the community. Port authority officials have stepped forward with many ideas for the property if funds to raze the structure can be acquired.

We applaud the group for its vision and ability to take the lead and try to do what apparently no one else has attempted. We urge OLBH officials to donate the property to the IPA and to help foot the bill of the demolition.

Rightfully or not, Bellefonte took much heat after it purchased the building with the intent to reopen the facility, plans that never materialized. Helping to return the facility to a viable contributor to the community would be a massive step of goodwill on the OLBH's part and would show a true commitment to the future of Lawrence County.

The property has limitless potential but we are most intrigued by the possibility of using the property as a potential site for one or more of the new Ironton city schools the district hopes to build.

While we do not feel the hospital site would make sense for a new high school, it may be a perfect fit for the elementary and middle schools. The location is near the high school and also eliminates the worries about accessing the north end of town during flooding which is a concern with the present location of the kindergarten and middle schools.

Ironton does not need more empty buildings. The city needs opportunities and possibilities.

Thankfully, the port authority is looking for both. And that is something that Hollywood could never capture.