Junction City’s promised new state hospital is now in question now that some state politicians are starting to wonder if it should be built in light of the state’s budget problems.
The new hospital is expected to change the economic landscape of the town, which is why many residents hope the project moves ahead as planned.
Resident Robert Fink had some straightforward advice for state lawmakers about the project off Highway 99.
“They need to finish the project is what they need to do,” he said.
The plot of land is supposed to be the new home of a prison and mental health hospital committed by the government in 2007. But now, in 2010, politicians aren’t sure if the hospital will be a part of the deal.
“The way the economy is, I don’t know where they’re going to get the money,” said resident Marie Kienlen.
That’s exactly what some lawmakers are saying is the problem. The plan was to invest in two state hospitals in Salem and Junction City.
Salem’s project is underway and expected to be complete in next year. But Junction City’s is now under debate, despite strong local support.
“It’s just bad financial planning, but if they can find it, it’ll be good for Junction City,” said resident David Brinkley.
The state has already spent $2.8 million out of the $5 million project for planning and design.
“You hate to see that kind of a sunk cost, but you hold the hope that, in the future, they’ll be able to move forward,” resident Bob Harrell said.
Many residents have high hopes it could help the city plagued by economic woes since the RV industry went under.
“There’s a lot of empty store fronts around here, a lot of good people around here, it’ll be good for the town,” believes Brinkley. “So, hopefully, it won’t be too much of a fight and they’ll find the money for it.”
“I think it would help the economy, put jobs back to families that are out of work,” Kielen said.
The Governor and Senate President agree the state must follow through in building it. Critics argue they should invest in community mental health care facilities instead.
The pressure is on for lawmakers, who must make a decision in the 2011 session.