Abraham Mahshie – Contributing Writer
The Town Council heard presentations from Angel Medical Center parent company HCA Tuesday night before voting unanimously to approve a special use permit required to begin construction of the roughly 85,000 square-foot, two-story facility to be located on 12.89 acres at 14 One Center Court.
While the new Angel Hospital will not exceed the 30-bed capacity of the current Angel Medical Center, rooms will be larger and equipment will be upgraded and expanded services and structural and safety requirements will be met when the new building is ready in the third quarter of 2022, HCA representatives said Tuesday.
“We’re really excited to get to this point in time,” said Angel Medical Center CNO Karen Gorby. “Having a new building with new technology – new support for our patients and families in this region – will be really amazing compared to our current facility.”
Town planner Justin Setser made the initial presentation to the councilmen. The five HCA representatives scheduled to speak were then sworn in.
“They have done everything that we require,” said Setser, only making a suggestion that a sidewalk be added within the property to connect to Franklin House. Setser later said that from a June 27 neighborhood planning meeting until yesterday’s vote, he has heard no public opposition. At the public hearing Tuesday, no members of the public spoke in opposition of the project.
The town was required to consider a special use permit for the new hospital because the planned construction exceeds 30,000 square feet.
HCA North Carolina division president Greg Lowe gave a slideshow overview of the hospital giant’s 185 United States and United Kingdom hospitals before extolling the advantages of fitting into a robust regional network.
“[It’s] a large system that works together to provide care in this Western North Carolina region,” he said of the six acute-care hospitals in Western North Carolina that employ 3,300 nurses.
HCA project representative Ryan Rohe considered the unspoken public question of why the new facility was necessary instead of renovating the old Angel Medical Center.
“Renovation is a lose-lose,” he said for the new equipment and big upgrades that would be coming. Gorby said the rooms were 60 percent too small and therefore inadequate to provide “family centered patient care.” She said a wing is currently closed because it does not meet seismic structural standards and the building cannot accommodate fire safety upgrades.
HCA architect Jack Parker of Nashville-based Catalyst Design Group said the two-floor building will be constructed in such a way to allow for easy future expansion of the emergency wing, operating room or radiology department without disruption to the rest of the hospital.
The emergency wing, adjacent to a helipad, will be the first and easiest to locate once exiting off Sylva Road, and the single entrance to the remainder of the building will avoid patients and family members wandering through “dark corridors.”
The only council member to speak up during the discussion period that followed was David Culpepper, who prophesied a bottleneck at the single vehicular entrance, and called for a second entrance at Cat Creek Rd.
“One entrance is a bottleneck waiting to happen,” he said. He later elaborated, “If you’ve got a red light that’s 12 cars deep and you’ve got an ambulance behind it.”
HCA representatives outlined a timeline that kicks off in February 2020 and wraps up in the third quarter of 2022.
Dog bites and leash law revisited
Mike Coates, 74, has been recovering for seven weeks from dog bites suffered on a Sunday morning in July as he walked to his local Ingles for a Sunday paper, chocolate milk and honey bun.
“I was viciously attacked by a 50-pound pit bull dog at the corner of Wilkie and W. Main St.,” he said, while calling on the town to address the lack of animal control. “This dog was relentless and would not let go even after I hit him a bunch of times.”
Coates required an emergency room visit, 11 wound center visits, three days of shots and months of antibiotics for dog bites from an animal whose owner had been visited by animal control or the police department at least 15 times, he said.
“If this had been a child or an old woman, they’d had done a job on ‘em,” said Coates.
Councilmember Dana Mashburn later revisited the prospect of a new leash law.
“That’s very serious with Mr. Coates,” she said. “I really would like to see something done with a little more teeth in it.”
Mayor Bob Scott agreed and again called for an additional town ordinance to further restrict irresponsible dog owners. The town is currently protected under a county-wide leash law.
Town Attorney John Henning Jr. warned that any new town ordinance would require town resources for enforcement that are currently not available.
“The town has not sat back and done nothing about this,” said Henning. “I think this is one time it hasn’t worked in 11 years.”
Town launches Adopt a Street program;
hears from nonprofit U-Turn America
Town Planner Justin Setser returned to the podium to update council members on the town’s new Adopt a Street program to promote local organizations while keeping town roadways clear of litter.
“We all know that litter has been a problem in Franklin and Macon County for a long time,” he said, noting how he volunteers with his church to clean up nearby roadways.
Residents, community organizations, churches or businesses can now adopt one of the more than 100 town streets over 27 miles of roadway free of charge for up to three years provided they conduct at least four yearly cleanings.
The Town of Franklin provides the cleaning party with safety vests, 30-gallon trash bags and trash grabbers, and the organization’s name will appear on a sign below the street sign.
Master certified trainer Kim Losee of nonprofit U-Turn America was also invited to address the board to discuss the urgent importance of fitness and nutrition in Macon County. Losee described how 30-minute classes can help local residents and noted that the classes are free to CareNet clients.
“Walking alone will not get you to your fitness goals,” she said, saying that between 2009 and 2013, heart disease was the leading cause of death in Macon County, and diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all be remedied with the exercise and dieting education offered by the new nonprofit.
“You can’t fix what you don’t know how to fix,” she said before demonstrating shoulder presses and squats that mimicked household tasks. She added that older participants have less joint pain, sleep more comfortably and can go all day sightseeing without it being a “miserable experience.”
U-Turn America was invited to speak to the council by Vice Mayor Barbara McRae, 76, who also serves on the organization’s board and has been a client of executive director and personal trainer Joey Yucum.
“It made me a believer,” said McRae, who started personal training five years ago when she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and given a 30 percent chance of survival. After medical treatment, dieting and regular exercise, including participating in U-Turn group classes, McRae said she recovered with more strength and energy. Of the exercise classes, she said, “It’s almost like having a personal trainer.”
There’s no U-turn to avoid the obstructed views at the corner of Patton Ave. and Palmer St., where two parking spaces have been the topic of the last two town hall meetings.
“It’s a matter of time before you have a bad wreck,” said Franklin Police Chief David Adams after describing how motorists must pull 10 to 15 feet out into the street when cars are parked in the spots in question. One spot is where a van is often parked most days with a large “Repent” sign. Adams previously told MCN the Repent van owner did not motivate the parking discussion.
Town Attorney John Henning Jr. advised councilmembers that the town is liable if it ignores a known public safety hazard, after which the council voted unanimously to remove the two spots.
The Town of Franklin also gave a nod to the U.S. Constitution and local constitutionalists by recognizing Sept. 17-23 as “Constitution Week 2019,” before announcing that the new “Aladdin” movie will be screened in the lower level of the Town Hall parking lot on Friday, Sept. 13.