published Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Memorial makes request for Chattanooga board to issue bonds

Memorial Hospital is located at 2525 de Sales Avenue in Chattanooga.
Memorial Hospital is located at 2525 de Sales Avenue in Chattanooga.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

AT A GLANCE

Memorial's $318 million expansion includes:

• 500,000-square-foot expansion at both Glenwood and Hixson sites.

• 27 projects over three phases

• South Tower Surgical Suite, home to a host of new operating rooms, intensive care units and a sterile processing center

• 14 new operating rooms, bringing the hospital's total to 27

• A new central utility plan to power the North Tower and provide backup electricity

• Demolition of old tuberculosis hospital and relocation of Children's Learning Center to new 15,000-square-foot site.

• 10-bed ICU, renovations at Hixson site

As Memorial Health Care System reaches the home stretch of a major expansion, the hospital is requesting a Chattanooga city board to issue $325 million in revenue bonds.

Memorial officials told the Chattanooga Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board on Monday that the issuance was "largely reimbursement financing" for the $318 million project.

If issued, the proceeds of the bonds will go to Catholic Health Initiatives, the nonprofit corporation that owns Memorial.

The fact that two board members had conflicts of interest with the project, however, meant the board did not have enough members to vote on the resolution Monday.

Both Hicks Armor, who is on Memorial's volunteer planning committee, and Gregg Gentry -- who is the chief administrative officer at competitor Erlanger Health Systems -- abstained from the vote.

The board planned to schedule a follow-up meeting in about two weeks, at which point a vote is planned. But when the board held a "soft vote" on Monday, three out of the seven-member board indicated approval.

"It feels like everybody's very much inclined to vote for this; it's just logistics right now with not having the right number to approve" said board secretary Stefanie Crowe.

The hospital broke ground on the massive project in the spring of 2011, after a two-year delay following the recession. The last leg of the project to be completed is Memorial's large new 300,000-square-foot, 96-bed North Tower -- dubbed the "Heart Tower" -- which is expected to open next June.

Memorial officials by Monday night did not answer questions regarding the bond amount or the timing of the request.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@times freepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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