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Rice Hospital awards bids for care center project

WILLMAR -- Bids totaling $1.3 million were awarded Thursday for construction of a new addition at the Rice Care Center to house the skilled nursing facility's short-term rehabilitation program.

At a special meeting, Rice Memorial Hospital board members voted to accept all the bids, except for mechanical and electrical work, which is being submitted for another round of bidding. These two portions of the project are expected to account for another $1 million or so.

The hospital board also voted to approve the construction budget of $2.9 million. Final approval must come from the Willmar City Council, which meets next week.

Hospital officials had hoped to award all the contracts earlier this month, but a delay en-sued when the first set of bids came in substantially higher than the estimate.

After scrutiny with the project's architect and construction manager, costs have been shaved down to a number that's more acceptable, said Mike Schramm, chief executive of the city-owned hospital.

"We've done a lot of work and analysis of looking at how the bids came in and the scope of the project," he said. "We've spent quite a bit of time working through these things with our architect and construction manager."

Some of the revisions included opting for some materials that cost less, opting for a slightly smaller emergency generator, and reducing or eliminating electrical features that would have allowed the short-term rehab wing to be expanded in the future.

Although there's no certainty that a second round of mechanical and electrical bids will bring the costs down further, construction officials told the board that rebidding this portion of the project will allow for the design to be further refined.

Bids will likely come back to the hospital board for action in December.

The addition to the Rice Care Center -- located at 1801 Willmar Ave. S.W. -- is the largest project undertaken by Rice Hospital since 2002, when ground was broken for a four-year, $50 million-plus expansion and renovation of the hospital.

The new wing at the Rice Care Center will help meet a growing need for short-term rehabilitation. Typical clients for the service are older adults who have been hospitalized or undergone surgery, and need therapy or rehab before they're able to return to their own home.

In a third and future phase of the project, the Rice Care Center will receive a major upgrade of its existing facilities for long-term care.

Work on the site preparation and relocation of utilities for the short-term rehab wing is expected to start soon. Hospital officials said Thursday that they're planning to host a formal groundbreaking ceremony in the near future.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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