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No return for clinic; possible fire station site

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Due to a lack of fund-raising success, the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine no longer plans to rebuild the school’s health clinic that was located for three decades in Yellow Springs.

“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t successful. It’s a site we used for years and years,” said Boonshoft Dean Howard Part in a recent interview. “But you can only try for so long and then you make a decision that it won’t work.”

However, the Miami Township Fire-Rescue department hopes to provide a new community use for the site right across Herman Street from Friends Care Community. Recently, the fire department submitted a proposal to Wright State asking that three acres of the four-acre Xenia Avenue land be donated to the department for construction of a new fire station and Township offices.

The former clinic site is the fire department’s first choice for its new fire station because out of two potential new locations, the former clinic site offers the fastest response time for medical calls, according to Fire Chief Colin Altman.

Wright State officials just received the proposal this week, according to Vice President for Planning Robert Sweeney in an interview on Monday. Because he hadn’t had time to review the specifics, Sweeney said he had no comment on the university’s response at this time, including the possibility of the university donating the land rather than selling it.

The Xenia Avenue property, which is zoned Residence B, is subdivided into 22 residential properties, each appraised at about $50,000, Sweeney said.

The Wright State University Board of Trustees will meet next week and likely consider the proposal at that time, he said, stating that the board’s response will probably be announced at its Oct. 7 public meeting.

In recent interviews both Sweeney and Boonshoft Dean Howard Part emphasized the school’s desire to find a use for the land that is beneficial to the Yellow Springs community.

“We’re open to any suggestions,” Sweeney stated last week, saying that the land was not on the market yet. “Before we move forward with a sale we want to make sure that the use is something consistent with the values of the village. We’re trying to find out, is there a function for the land that is in the best interest of Wright State and also in the best interest of the community?”

Clinic won’t return

The former Wright State Physicians Family Health Center on Xenia Avenue was closed two years ago due to falling revenues caused partly by maintaining an expensive old building, clinic leaders said at the time. The 50-year-old building located across the street from Friends Care Community was razed later that year and the clinic moved to a temporary site at Greene Memorial Hospital, with the plan to rebuild on the previous site at a later time.

At the time, medical director Dr. Cynthia Olsen said that the center served about 4,000 patients from the village and surrounding area. Olsen, who continues to live in town, stated her hope that the clinic would return to Yellow Springs.

However, to fund rebuilding the clinic, the school needed to raise about $2.5 million, and that proved unrealistic, according to Part recently. Though there was considerable interest in the community in keeping the clinic in town, “that interest didn’t translate into actual funding,” Part said, adding that the school “tried to cast a wide net” to secure funding around the area but ultimately did not succeed. He speculated that the economic downturn was mainly responsible for the difficulty.

The entire family medicine practice of five physicians and one physician’s assistant that formerly practiced in Yellow Springs and temporarily moved to Greene Memorial will be moving permanently to a new medical building on the Wright State campus when the building is completed in the next year or two, according to Wright State faculty member Dr. Margaret Dunn, who is president of the nonprofit corporation, Wright State Physicians, that is constructing the building. The ground was recently broken for the building.

The new medical building will include five different kinds of medical practice: family medicine, neurology, dermatology, sports medicine and aerospace medicine, Dunn said. The consolidation of several medical practices in one space offers cost savings that are necessary in this time of continuing decline in re-imbursements for health care, Part said.

“Our goal is to consolidate the cost of delivering health care, and it makes sense to co-locate as many practices as we can,” he said. “The cost of building another facility would put us out of business.”

Locating the new combined-practice medical building in Yellow Springs would be less cost-effective because most of the physicians practice in the Dayton area, and a Yellow Springs location would involve more travel time and therefore more expense, Part said. Also, the new medical building will offer Wright State medical students opportunities for training and research close to campus.

The land for the new building was donated by the university, and the nonprofit corporation will cover the cost of construction through bank loans, according to Dunn.

The mortgage payment on the new building will be less than the combined cost of renting space at the medical school physicians’ current offices across the Miami Valley, she said, stating that the savings with the new building will allow the school to continue to provide services to those who most need it.

“We do a lot of care of the uninsured and the under-insured,” she said. “We have to be relentlessly focused on cost and efficiency to continue that care.”

According to Part, while the school began planning the new medical center some time ago, leaders still maintained hope that the Yellow Springs clinic could be re-built if sufficient local donations came through. The decision was made earlier this year that this possibility was unrealistic, he said.

The decision not to re-build in Yellow Springs “deeply saddens me. I had to go through a long grieving period,” Olsen said, stating that she had spent the better part of her career, 23 years, at the Yellow Springs clinic.

“We continue to serve the Greene County population the best we can,” Olsen said, adding that, “It’s not the same. Something was truly lost by leaving.”

However, the number of patient visits at the clinic, 11,000 yearly, has remained largely the same since the move to Greene Memorial, Olsen said.

Fire station too small

The main reason the fire department needs a new station is size, according to Chief Altman last week. The current fire station was constructed in 1954, remodeled in the ’60s, and last enlarged in the late 1970s, Altman said.

“We’ve outgrown the building,” Altman said. “The space was made for trucks half the size as the ones we have now.”

While the department should be able to park its trucks in the station with 10 to 15 feet between trucks, currently there is only a few feet between parked vehicles.

The current station also lacks adequate space for crews that stay all night; some nights, three or four people need to stay, and currently they are squeezed into a room at the top of the stairway over the garage, where crew members sometimes breathe carbon monixide from the trucks below.

“It’s a health and safety living space issue,” Altman said.

The Township offices also lack adequate space for all of its employees, he said, stating that there is no way to enlarge the current station except building up, which is highly expensive.

The Township hired MSA of Cincinnati, an architectural firm, to help determine its space needs and appropriate sites, according to Altman, who said the consultant concluded that about three acres is needed to both build an appropriately sized building with adequate parking and room to grow. Because there aren’t many three-acre sites available near the center of the village — a location necessary to respond quickly in emergencies — the firm recommended two sites, the former clinic land on Xenia Avenue, and land currently owned by Antioch College at the corner of Corry and Allen Streets.

The Xenia Avenue site is the department’s first choice because it is more centrally located, and it offers easy access to Xenia Avenue, Altman said.

The cost of the new building would be $2.5 to $3 million, which would be covered by a bond issue to be placed on the ballot.

The Township is cognizent of the economic downturn, and seeks a new site that meets its needs in a way that’s as efficient and low cost as possible, Altman said.

“There’s the wants and there’s needs, and we’re focused on needs,” he said. “We want to keep it reasonable in terms of size and cost.”

The Township will sponsor several public meetings on the fire station upgrade within a few months, once the new site becomes known, he said.

Regarding a new health care presence in Yellow Springs, Village Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman said last week that she is exploring a variety of options with area health care providers who may wish to locate in the village.

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