Kings County breaks ground on remodeling ‘Old Hospital’ | Politics

It’s been nearly 50 years since the “Old Hospital” on Lacey Boulevard in Hanford was vacated and left idle. Thanks to decisive actions taken by the Kings County Board of Supervisors, the old hospital will be remodeled and converted into offices for the county’s Human Services and Behavioral Health agencies.

Kings County officials held a ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday to recognize the old hospital, reportedly built in 1922. The ground-breaking begins what many county officials said will be a relatively quick renovation project.

The project began with approval of a proposal made a year ago to save the historic hospital. Less than a year ago, the Board was asked to approve a standard agreement that enables Lacey Campus Partners — along with Paynter Realty & Investments — to purchase the 44,000-square-foot building at 1222 Lacey Blvd., reinforce the foundation, remodel the interior, refurbish the exterior, and then lease it back to the county.

“Leasing the building back is an opportunity,” said Supervisor Craig Pedersen.

He explained the county typically has to find vacant buildings to house employees “off-site” from the main government center.

“To be able to keep things here and not have to go somewhere else is a big plus,” said Pedersen, who is retiring as District 4 supervisor in December 2021.

“This is one of those projects…you look at with pride to the whole community,” he said. “This will be one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Pedersen said the county was able to initiate the project through a Private-Public (PP3) code that allows cooperation between private firms like Paynter and Lacey Campus Partners, and Kings County.

Kyria Martinez, assistant county administrative officer, elaborated.

“We’re involved in administration because we were approached by a major developer who wanted to purchase, remodel and lease back the building,” she said, noting the project progressed rapidly to this week’s ground-breaking stage.

“We were excited,” she said of Paynter’s proposal to assume responsibility for the project in the summer of 2021. “We brought it to our [supervisors] Board. They were excited…it was a 5-0 vote. And here we are with ground-breaking.”

Supervisor Doug Verboon (District 3) echoed her sentiments.

“We are excited for the opportunity to do this for the county and be able to restore a building for county use that has been vacant,” Verboon said. “We are bringing history back to life.”

Themes of birth and rebirth, of restoring physical and emotional health, mending broken bones and healing hearts were heard throughout the morning event.

Long-time county residents shared their experiences at the old hospital during the 1950s and throughout the ’60s. Attendees discussed their early  childhood falls and scraped knees, life-threatening operations and routine procedures.

“I came to Kings County from Oklahoma,” said Pastor Lonnie Keele, who gave the invocation. “There’s a lot of history behind this hospital.”

Edward Hill, county administrative officer, offered his remarks before the groundbreaking ceremony.

“It’s a wonderful day in Kings County as we honor this building where so many residents were born,” Hill said. “We’re here today to break ground on this ‘new’ building.”

Hill shared a couple of key facts about the original hospital, noting it was built in 122 working days at a cost of $26,362.

For the refurbished building, the county anticipates a one-time cost of $375,000, in addition to paying an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 for “construction management oversight of the project.”

The cost of  demolishing the old hospital and then rebuilding it from the ground up was prohibitive, one supervisor said. However, by leasing the remodeled building back, with an option to purchase in the future, it’s estimated the county will save money.

“When we get this done, I believe this [renovation] is going to be breathtaking,” said Jim Sanders, executive vice president of Paynter Realty & Investments.

Sanders said he grew up in the area and was determined to keep the landmark hospital alive — at least in spirit.

“We’re excited to be breaking ground,” Sanders said. “I want to thank the supervisors. Without you, we would not be here. We really appreciate your foresight.”

Pedersen, who read a proclamation declaring the project official, said the transformation of the old hospital into new offices represents the “past, present and future” of Kings County.

“Look at the challenges this community had to go through to get this built,” Pedersen said. “It’s going to be a beautiful building when it’s finished.”

Chairman Neves (District 1) agreed.

“It’s going to be phenomenal,” he said, pointing out two refurbished rocking chairs in front of the shovels used for the ground-breaking ceremony. The chairs were salvaged from the original hospital “birthing room,” Neves informed attendees during opening remarks.

Verboon spoke frankly about the old hospital building, which sat boarded up for nearly half a century.

“It’s been a bit of an eyesore since the ’70s,” Verboon said, noting he’s happy the supervisors agreed to restore the old hospital.

“I think it’s great that we’re saving a part of history,” he said. “A lot of times we erase the past by tearing these old buildings down.”