September 28, 2022
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Marian rebuilding project to top $210M

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The framework has been set for one of the biggest construction projects to ever hit the Central Coast. On June 11, the towering four-story steel skeleton in Santa Maria was completed — the first step in a $210 million expansion project at Marian Medical Center.

In response to the rapidly growing population of the Santa Maria Valley, Marian Medical Center will likely wind up spending nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to double its square footage, meet seismic standards and add some cutting-edge medical services to its campus.

“We simply need more space,” Marian Medical Center Foundation Executive Director Lynette Muscio said. “Our current facilities are not adequate for the growth rate of the surrounding areas.”

Marian’s population service region — northern Santa Barbara County and southern San Luis Obispo County — is growing quickly, but there were other factors that contributed to the expansion decision, including a state mandate requiring hospitals comply with new seismic standards by 2015.

Marian officials were already planning their renovation before the legislation was passed, but Muscio said the mandate provided a catalyst for the project.

“The hospital has been planning for this for a long time, but the state law helped push it along and make it a reality,” Muscio said.

Because the project is so massive, Muscio has been spearheading a fundraiser for the hospital. Her efforts have raised an impressive $13.7 million in three years, but she’s not stopping there.

“We’re really pushing for our goal of $15 million,” Muscio said. “It’s the largest campaign ever attempted in northern Santa Barbara County, and as far as we know it’s the largest amount ever raised here.”

She and a committee of 60 started reaching out to the community in 2005, when the project was announced. Since then, money has poured in from area businesses, longtime donors and even employees. Workers at Marian have donated more than $200,000 to the project.

Project manager Craig Miller estimates that $30 to $40 million has been spent on construction so far. He currently has 60 to 70 of his workers on the project and has been lining up subcontractors, including a smattering of regional companies.

Signing area contractors “wasn’t intentional, but it’s a really, really good thing,” Miller said. “Frankly, we were concerned that there would not be much opportunity for local people because a lot of this project is large contracts, but we were fortunate enough to have several local contractors including the Thoma Electric and the plumbing contractor Smith Electric.”

San Luis Obispo-based Thoma Electric was awarded the electrical contract, the largest in the company’s 50-year history. President Bill Thoma could not comment on the contract’s value, but said the new hospital will be one of the largest private construction projects the area has ever seen.

“It’s probably the second largest construction project that’s ever happened on the Central Coast next to Diablo Canyon [Nuclear Power Plant],” Thoma said. “I’ve been in business here for 35 years, and I can’t think of anything larger than this from the Santa Maria basin to SLO County.”

Thoma has about seven employees now on the job, which is expected to be completed in 2011. At the peak of construction, he expects anywhere from 50 to 75 employees to be involved.

He estimated that the project will require more than 220 miles of wire and about 400,000 feet — more than 75 miles — of metal conduit. The company also will furnish and install approximately 5,000 light fixtures and 7,000 switches and power outlets.

“Although it’s a very large project, we’ve had several years to plan for it.” Thoma said. “The intensity of the construction is far greater in a hospital than in any other type of construction. There’s quite a bit more sophistication. This would be a nice feather in our cap for future projects of similar magnitude, although I don’t expect to see another project of this size come along anytime soon.”

Miller, Marian’s vice president of professional services, said construction is ahead of schedule by several weeks. His team will soon start the next phase of construction: pouring concrete for the floors and constructing the walls.

“The structural steel portion was completed very fast, but construction slows down a little bit when you get to the interior because you have so many trades involved,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of coordination and so forth.”

Last year, Marian completed an energy plant that captures methane gas from the Santa Maria Municipal Landfill and pipes it to the hospital campus, where it is converted to clean electrical energy via a process called cogeneration.

There are currently 130 construction workers on the site of Marian’s new hospital. The new hospital’s steel structure weighs 2,296 tons and is held together with 6,038 pieces of separate steel beams.

Marian broke ground on the new hospital’s site in October 2008. Construction is on schedule and is set to be completed in fall of 2011. The new hospital will double its existing size to 216,000 square feet, offering 188 beds with private patient rooms, an expanded emergency department with 32 exam rooms and self-contained imaging services, an expanded critical care unit, a neonatal intensive care unit, a healing garden and courtyard, a new chapel and an expanded cafeteria.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s a replacement hospital,” Thoma said. “It’s a feel-good project for the community that was 20 years in the making. To undertake a project like this in such tough economic times must be a strain for them, but it speaks to their commitment to their community.”

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