HOWLAND TWP., Ohio (WKBN) - In mid-December, after General Motors announced the closing of the Lordstown plant, we reported that Mercy Health put plans to build a new hospital next to the Eastwood Mall Complex on hold. Now we're hearing there's still a chance the hospital could be built.
If it is built, the hospital would be part of the proposed Enterprise Park in Howland.
Enterprise Park would be built along Mosquito Creek in Howland Township -- 16 acres of which is wetlands and requires Ohio Environmental Protection Agency approval to build on.
"I can't speak for Mercy Health," said Cafaro Company Spokesperson Joe Bell. "We've seen the documents, you've seen the documents and I think they speak for themselves. They're pretty clear."
On December 26, eight days after we reported Mercy Health's hospital was on hold because of the closing of the GM Lordstown plant, a letter from HZW to EPA officials stated that Mercy Health "remains committed to Enterprise Park, but its decision then -- and is now -- whether it will construct a three- or four-level building versus a five- or six-level building."
In a letter dated January 21 to the Cafaro Corporation, Mercy Health President Don Kline wrote, "Our commitment to Enterprise Park has not changed."
Then on Thursday, Kline released a statement:
More than a year ago, Mercy Health began the process of reviewing potential sites for expansion of services within Trumbull County, similar to our investment at the Howland Medical Center. This site selection process is part of a common review to determine the best way to meet the changing needs of those we serve.
Through that process, Mercy Health's real estate consultants determined that Enterprise Park had the highest potential as a future site for a new facility in Trumbull County -- with the size and scope of services for such a facility not yet determined. A large project requires a rigorous process which includes a lengthy internal approval procedure -- a process that Mercy Health has not begun.
The letter dated January 21, 2019 reaffirms the same position the ministry took in May 2018; that if the EPA were to approve part (or all) of the development, we would continue our assessment of size and scope for a potential investment."
"We're committed to the project itself. We have been answering the EPA's questions and going through this process in a very deliberate and thoughtful way," Bell said.
The document from HZW also listed five alternative sites. The two most frequently mentioned were the Kmart Distribution Center, which was deemed too remote, and the former St. Joseph Hospital on Tod Avenue, which is in a deteriorating neighborhood on land too small.
Also considered were the former sites of Copperweld and RG Steel, both with clean-up issues, and the Phantom Fireworks warehouse, which owner Bruce Zolden won't sell.
Nothing can be done with a new Mercy Health hospital -- or Enterprise Park -- until the Ohio EPA decides if the land along Mosquito Creek can even be used. As Kline said in one of the documents, "you can't define what you're building until you know what you're building it on."