Oct. 9--WAVERLY -- Despite the coronavirus pandemic and tariffs on steel, the construction on the Waverly Health Center's expansion and renovation is proceeding ahead of schedule.

The only thing holding it up right now is Heidi Solheim, the center's chief operating officer. She's hauling a 5-foot-long beam to various clinics getting signatures before it's placed up in the roof where it belongs.

"I promised I wouldn't slow up construction," she laughed, noting she'll finish getting the signatures this week.

An official beam-signing celebration Tuesday afternoon followed a groundbreaking May 14, both signifying ongoing construction since 2019 at the center, located at 312 Ninth St. S.W.

Phase 1 began with smaller renovations and utility work, Solheim said. Phase 2 -- underway now -- is "probably the largest" phase, adding 31,000 square feet to the facility, including a new emergency department, a large family practice clinic and outpatient area.

"We're just running out of space. The clinics don't have enough space, and our emergency department (right now) is a composite of different parts of the hospital," she said.

The new emergency department will have a centralized nursing station and be better able to accommodate patients, particularly those with psychiatric issues, Solheim said.

The addition is expected to be enclosed by Thanksgiving, and employees can expect to move into their new digs by this time next year, she said.

Phase 3 will involve a "massive" renovation of 40,000 square feet of the current emergency department and support staff areas into a new general surgery clinic, orthopedic clinic and other outpatient services that have been "really growing" over the years, Solheim said.

"We have so many visiting specialists that want to come here, and they don't have space," she said.

The $36 million project will be paid for with USDA and bank loans, fundraising and hospital reserves. Invision Architecture, Modus Engineering and Graham Construction are working on the project.

"We've been working a bit ahead of schedule, which is surprising with the tariffs and pandemic," Solheim said. "And, knock on wood, we're on budget."

The center has a Facebook page dedicated to the project, Waverly Health Center -- Building for You, which shares photos and video of the progress.

Solheim said the public phase of the hospital's fundraising has so far raised $1.6 million of the $2 million goal.

"We really appreciate the community support that we've had," Solheim said.


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