WRMC nurses building will be demolished


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Wilkes Journal-Patriot Staff

Nurses building

Wilkes Regional Medical Center officials plan to have the former nurses building on the hospital campus demolished.

The 60-year-old, two-story building, located on a hill in the northwest corner of the hospital property, has been condemned by town officials. It has been vacant since 2008.

“The building needs to come down,” said Mark Cullison, the vice president of support services for the hospital. “It has been vacant for over three years, and it is very dilapidated.”

In a letter to the town board requesting permission to demolish the building, hospital attorney John Logsdon wrote, “The building has structural problems, and the North Wilkesboro Fire Department has designated it as being unsafe to enter in the event of a fire.

“In addition, the building has severe mold problems and contains lead paint and asbestos.

“In short,” Logsdon added, “it is beyond rehabilitation and needs to be demolished. WRMC officials are in the process of making plans for demolition and removal of the building.”

The building is a part of the hospital property owned by the town and leased to the WRMC Hospital Operating Corporation. A section of the hospital lease provides hospital officials with the right to make alterations and improvements to the buildings.

“Arguably, removing the building will improve the hospital property, but demolition of a structure likely goes beyond what was contemplated when the lease was entered,” said Logsdon in the letter.

Cullison said that the immediate plans for the space, after demolition, will be to fill in the crawl space below the building and pave the lot to provide additional parking “until we come up with ideas on something else to do with the space.”

Plans for the demolition will be presented to the hospital finance committee at that group’s August meeting, and then to the full hospital board in September.

History of the building

Soon after the main hospital was completed in 1952, the hospital constructed the building as a dormitory for nurses who worked at the hospital.

When the demand for dorm space decreased, the building was converted into space for the hospital’s radiologic technology training program, according to Dr. John Bond.

Space on the first floor was converted into office space for physicians, including Dr. John Bond and Dr. Michael Blackwell. Those offices eventually moved.

The second floor continued to serve as the classroom area for the radiologic program and dorm space for the female students.

In 2008, the radiologic training program moved from the hospital campus to the hospital’s support center, located in the former Winn-Dixie building on West D Street, and the hospital stopped offering dorm space for students.

The hospital’s radiologic training program ended in the summer of 2013. The program is now being offered by Wilkes Community College. The classes are being taught at the hospital’s support center until renovation work is completed on the college’s health science building (the former First Union offices) on Oakwoods Road).

Space for offices?

In making the initial request to demolish the building at the town board’s July work session Thursday night, Logsdon said that several ideas had been discussed regarding the future use of the lot.

“There has been some talk about adding a building for physician offices as new doctors are recruited to Wilkes,” Logsdon told the board. “Right now the hospital is renting space for some of the doctors’ offices from The Health Foundation.

“I don’t know of any specific plans for the space, but office space would be one option. Right now we have a liability, and we need to get rid of it. Then we can look at the future.”

Commissioner Joe Johnson suggested, “One option would be to sell the property to The Health Foundation and let that organization use it, possibly for offices.”

“I think we’re in agreement the building is a liability for all of us,” added board member Bart Hayes.

The commissioners will take action on the request at the Tuesday, Aug. 5 meeting.

Also at the August meeting, the town will act upon the reappointment of Steve Gentry to the town’s ABC board for a three-year term, the reappointment of Amy Cox and Martha Nichols to the town planning board for five-year terms, and the reappointment of Freida Matthews and Jane Wilborn to the zoning board for three years.

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