Tulare health district plans big upgrades in FY ‘24

The Tulare Local Health Care District (TLHCD) is planning to complete more than $4.5 million in maintenance and upgrades at its properties across the district, including ongoing construction of the tower expansion at Adventist Tulare and a project to significantly lengthen the life of the pool at the district-owned gym.


Tower Project Gets Lion’s Share

The reason for the sudden burst of activity is simple: the district finally has the money.

“We have some financial resources to do it now,” said Kevin Northcraft, president of the TLHCD governing board. “We’re able to get some things started.”

A list of upcoming projects was shared at a meeting of the Tower Construction Committee held Tuesday, August 8. In total, projects valued at $4,519,065 are scheduled for completion before the end of the current fiscal year in June of 2024. The bulk of that work will be at the unfinished tower expansion project.

The state has threatened to void the district’s building permit for the tower unless it is able to meet a set of construction deadlines in the near future. The district plans to spend $3.9 million on the tower in the next 10 months. The work includes a $2.1 million project to complete the building’s elevators and dumbwaiters, and construction of a parking lot with lighting, landscaping and irrigation for around $400,000. About a dozen projects are listed.

Other work, like construction of a helipad, is a matter of finishing projects that were moved to the back burner.

“We’re doing some of the things we already have equipment for,” Northcraft said. “The helipad is pretty much already there, it’s just not been installed. It’s all part of keeping the permit alive.”


Tower Funding Could Come from Adventist

Northcraft and the board believe the upcoming work on the tower will keep the state satisfied and the construction permit valid. Not having the state breathing down their necks will let the administration focus on a much more important matter.

“We can get the big thing accomplished, getting funding for the tower,” Northcraft said.

He said it’s possible Adventist Health Central Valley Network, which operates the TLHCD medical center as Adventist Tulare, may be willing to foot the construction costs. Underwriting the tower construction would be offset by crediting the district for rent Adventist would have to pay at the expanded facility.

Such an arrangement may require some tricky scheduling.

“They want to look at staging that work,” Northcraft said.

Adventist Tulare has three of its own projects planned at the hospital. They include parking lot maintenance, work on a fire alarm panel, and replacement of flooring and a new grease trap in the hospital’s kitchen. Total cost will be about $300,000.


Other Projects in the Works

The TLHCD’s to-do list covers more than the main hospital campus. Nearly all the rest of the capital project outlay for FY24 not spent on the tower will go to work at the Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center. But not all of it.

The district plans to spend $40,000 tearing down a building it owns at 890 Cherry Avenue. The offices were once home to the Microcorre Diagnostic Lab but are now empty and have been for too long, says the district’s insurance company.

“We’ve got quite a few buildings that are not functional anymore. Medical people aren’t interested in them,” Northcraft said. “We’re paying insurance on them, and the insurance companies recommended we tear them down.”

The district has already had two or three other unwanted buildings demolished. The district isn’t just avoiding the costs of maintaining unused buildings; knocking down the outdated offices also presents an opportunity for expanding medical services in Tulare.

“We’re trying to get land available to build other things,” Northcraft said. “We’re finding out what Adventist wants so we can build it and lease it back to them.”


Pool at Evolutions Getting a Makeover

A set of new air conditioning units for future installation at the district’s commercial properties on Prosperity Avenue is on the district’s shopping list. The AC units will eventually replace those still doing their jobs, but which won’t last forever. The district, Northcraft said, is planning ahead while it can afford to.

“We know our air conditioners are starting to run out,” he said.

They also know the two pools at Evolutions are in need of serious maintenance that will run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The district has accepted a bid to replace the liners on both the lap pool and the therapy pool with a price tag of $339,000. Replacing the 20-year-old liners should give the pools another two decades of life.

“Hopefully, it’ll be good for another 20 years,” Northcraft said. “We think we’re doing a better job of maintaining it, too.”

The TLHCD board is laying out significant money to keep the pool open because the members believe it is a unique health asset for Tulare residents.

“It’s one of the things we provide that’s not available anywhere else,” Norhtcraft said.

The lap pool at Evolutions was the site of an accident earlier this summer. Five people, including two minors, were injured when a cloud of toxic chloramine gas settled on the pool. Chloramines are formed when chlorine used to sterilize the pool mixes with ammonia compounds carried into the pool by swimmers.

In the wake of that incident, independent experts hired to investigate the accident recommended the installation of UV filters to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. The board will vote on purchasing a UV system and a dehumidifier for the pool area at its next regular meeting.

The TLHCD board will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23 at 842 North Gem Street.

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