• 41°

St. Mary#8217;s to announce partnership

Tonight’s Chamber of Commerce awards banquet will honor key community leaders, but will also unveil two projects — one focusing on health care and the other on travel lodging.

Although everyone remains tight lipped about the details, St. Mary’s Medical Center officials confirmed that the hospital will make an announcement regarding the future of health care in Lawrence County. The Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual award banquet begins at 6 p.m. at Ohio University Southern.

Sources close to the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, insist the announcement won’t include immediate plans to develop a new hospital in the county, but will be a positive step toward ensuring that Lawrence County residents have access to the best health care options available.

“St. Mary’s is a well-known, well-respected organization. To have them interested in being part of the community — and they really haven’t had much of a presence before — is really flattering,” said one economic development official. “Any partnership that this community can participate in, especially one that could create jobs, is a real plus.”

According to a variety of sources, the announcement will focus on a partnership with the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization. The CAO and other leaders have been pursing the idea of bringing a hospital back to Lawrence County for more than four years and St. Mary’s has been a partner in at least one preliminary study to determine the feasibility of this approach.

The second announcement will be about the groundbreaking and development of a new hotel in South Point. Junior and Hammond Patel, developers of The Comfort Inn and Suites project at Charley Creek Road, will be on hand to unveil the building design.

Also, the Chamber will honor two individuals and one business that have made an impact on the community in 2007. The event will also pay respect to George Patterson, a 25-year county commissioner who passed away earlier this year.

Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the CAO, will be named the Person of the Year. The award will be renamed the George Patterson award in honor of the man’s years of public service.

Ironton resident Jodi Rowe Collins will be honored as Volunteer of the Year for her work with the Friends of Ironton civic club and a variety of other organizations.

Liebert Corp. will be honored as the Business of the Year.