PMC receives green light for $20 million treasury grant

During the recent Hospital Board meeting Sept. 28, Petersburg Medical Center CEO Phil Hofstetter shared news of receiving the "verbal greenlight" for a $20 million treasury grant earlier that day.

The verbal greenlight came from PMC's liaison with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the state governor's office, which is the agency that is working with the Department of the Treasury, Hoffstetter explained to the Pilot in an interview.

This $20 million grant will be used to develop the new Workforce Education Resource Center (WERC) building, where broadband telehealth infrastructure will be situated along with the Public Health offices, the much anticipated MRI system, and community resources for education.

Hofstetter wants to make sure that PMC receives a proper email communicating the certification of validation, which is yet to be received, but said "the exciting thing is [the liaison] did acknowledge that it was a yes ... that's a huge step in getting the [WERC] building moving forward."

Every state is receiving large sums of money for infrastructure through a bill passed in the federal government to address challenges laid bare by the pandemic and in response to an increased need for infrastructure improvements nationwide.

The state directs where and what its money is allocated for, with this grant under the parameters of the Department of the Treasury.

PMC is one of ten projects in Alaska to receive this funding. Hofstetter noted, "the state advocated for us through the Department of Health and Social Services, and the governor, that we would be one of the projects ... that went through, May of 2022."

However, the money was held up at the federal level for some time as the various projects underwent a process of approval, leaving recipients to wonder when it would come to fruition.

"I think ... there's just a level of bureaucracy at the federal level to make sure that it goes through and meets all the requirements, goes down to the state ... I think all the projects fell in that category," he said. "We're one of 10, and seven of them have been approved so there's still three pending and we happen to be one of them ... [But] I mean, we did hear the greenlight."

The parameters for the grant set by the Department of the Treasury require that the recipient project's space enables public health monitoring, work and education with an emphasis on including broadband internet and WiFi for the community's avail.

"Under those parameters, we feel very fortunate the state advocated for us as part of this project, but we have to not only meet those requirements, but the building has to be open at the end of their time frame ... it can't go towards a partial of a project, it has to be a completed project," he said.

Hofstetter told the Pilot that, theoretically, when the Treasury comes in Dec. 2026, "we have to have an open operational building. That's the requirement ... That 20 million is wonderful, but ... we can't build a whole new hospital with that funding."

The project manager, architects, engineers, and the state had to diligently re-envision and work out a building that meets the needs of the grant, which Hofstetter said took a lot of innovation, strategizing, conversation, and a lot of communication back and forth with the Treasury.

The originally planned outbuilding has grown into "basically like a medical office building" where public health will be located, achieving the health monitoring quality for the grant.

But that is not all - Hofstetter is excited that the WERC building is "very community focused."

"I'm very excited about this because it kind of makes us build a community education building. It really does, I mean, that's what it is," he emphasized.

The space is designed to support the education and workforce needs of anyone in the Petersburg community, beyond PMC's current healthcare-related certification programs.

Hofstetter said technology will be a focus of the WERC building in its ability to not only serve WiFi internet and conference room space for community education, but also rooms for telehealth and a highly community-requested MRI.

"This kind of focuses us on more community space area, and I think that's a big asset when we're looking at developing a healthcare complex." He added that PMC employs and trains a large number of working professionals in Petersburg, "So local workforce is a huge priority for us."

There was an open house earlier this year that presented a draft of the building. However, this funding has influenced large changes to the original design.

"The funding really dictates what that design's going to look like ... We're very, very close to completing that design," he said.

Another open house is expected to occur sometime in November and will present the public with the updated, final design for the WERC building.


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