Americus-- The signs are all there in Americus. They point to progress.
Heavy equipment picks up dirt for a new start. Workers are busy on rooftops late in the afternoon. But you won't see many of those signs by simply looking at the now destroyed Sumter Regional Hospital.
"It's pretty strong in spite of all the damage it sustained during the tornado," said Sumter Regional Hospital CEO David Seagraves.
Though this is what people have seen as they've driven by since March, much of the hard work has been done behind the scenes. CEO David Seagraves says the hospital has endured months of negotiations with Chubb, their insurance company.
"We just didn't think that it was the right solution to go back in and try to repair that building," said Seagraves.
Within the past few days they've learned that they won't have to repair. They'll be able to rebuild from scratch. "That is big, big and exciting news for Americus and Sumter County," said Seagraves. Before the year is over, Sumter Regional as the area knows it, will be demolished to make room for a new state of the art facility.
"Just the word we've been looking forward to," said Seagraves.
Since the March 1st tornadoes, the hospital has been a ghost town. Windows are still boarded up and debris still hangs down. But even before the demolition news, hospital leaders already had a temporary plan in place.
"It's going to be a full service hospital, just on a smaller scale than what we had before the tornado," said Seagraves. Construction on a $35-million temporary facility continues using COGIM units from FEMA.
Once complete, it'll be 70,000 square feet with 70 beds and everything from full surgical capabilities to intensive care units. "We'll be able to return labor and delivery services to the community. That has all been going down to Albany," said Seagraves.
Contractors will soon begin aggressively working to have the temporary location complete by November. It's around the same time that the permanent Sumter Regional will come tumbling down.
"There will be a lot of hard work associated with getting it down and getting the debris removed from the site," said Seagraves.
Seagraves is looking forward to the hard work in anticipation of a new hospital by the summer of 2010. The price tag for the new start? "We're looking at probably $125 million," said Seagraves.
Progress in the eyes of many could be priceless and will soon be evident from every angle in Americus.
The demolition process should begin by November after some asbestos is removed from the building. The section of the hospital built in 1999 could be saved from the demolition and possibly used for office space.