The main lobby of Beaufort Memorial Hospital will be temporarily closed for a week because of construction in the emergency department. The lobby will close Monday and reopen Aug. 27.
Visitors should use the surgery and birthing-center entrance. Signs will direct them to the main elevators. Visitors should not use the temporary Emergency Room entrance to access the rest of the hospital.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling watched Beaufort Memorial Hospital CEO Rick Toomey standing at the edge of the sidewalk, only feet from cars traveling 30 mph or more along Ribaut Road.
"I'd certainly rather be standing where I am with grass and trees than where Rick is standing right now at this intersection," he said.
Work will begin next month to bring grass, trees and a safer sidewalk to the hospital's property near the intersection of Ribaut and Allison roads after an agreement between Beaufort Memorial and the city announced Thursday.
The plan also will connect the hospital's walking paths with the Spanish Moss Trail. Work on the trail will begin this fall. It is part of the city's plan to improve pedestrian and bicyclist paths around the city and slow down Ribaut Road.
"We try to do more than just take care of sick people and injured people," hospital board chairmanJerry Schulze said. "We try to keep people healthy. That's part of this, so that the people at the fitness center can walk and jog and have access to the trail, take a bike ride."
The hospital is building a four-story, 80,000-square-foot administration and fitness center near the intersection of Allison and Ribaut roads, across the street from the main campus.
The plan, Toomey said, is to build 6-foot-wide sidewalks and plant a barrier strip with grass and trees next to Ribaut. The design should provide more area for people to stand at the intersection before and after crossing. The hospital is providing most of the land for the sidewalks and landscaping and paying for their construction. Toomey did not have a cost estimate for the work Thursday.
Part of the work, he said, was already planned as part of the new construction; other elements were a result of negotiations with the city.
The hospital also has agreed to put a 10-foot-wide, multi-use path and sidewalk and a 7-foot-wide landscaped area on properties along Allison Road. The city intends to eventually connect the path to the Spanish Moss Trail.
"You've got safety, you've got wellness, you've got the hospital, you've got the city, you've got the Spanish Moss Trail, which is everybody coming together for a mutual interest to solve a shared challenge," Keyserling said, "and it's a perfect example of how we can all be working together."
Toomey said the administration building should be complete in January. Construction on the sidewalks and landscaping should begin in September.
The city issued a permit in February for initial work on the building, but one of the conditions was the planning of a future right-of-way for a marsh-side road behind the property, which is part of the city's master plans. A second permit in May also included a condition to plan for the road.
City manager Scott Dadson said additional permits were withheld during discussions that led to the removal of the marsh road plans and addition of the sidewalks. Dadson said City Council discussed the issue during closed-door meetings because of potential legal action after "discussions elevated to the level of discussion between the hospital and city attorney."
"As a result of the cooperation of both the hospital and city, this potential claim was averted and an amicable resolution was reached," he said in an email.
A hospital board of trustees resolution, provided by the city, says Beaufort Memorial will cooperate on a marsh road in the future, if the city develops a fully-funded plan.
This condition was removed and replaced with a commitment to good pedestrian access along Ribaut and Allison Road as well as a future connection ability for the parking area.