The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

March 20, 2013

River Hills: stay downtown or go outside city limits?

City council considers options to change bus routes, alleviate congestion downtown

OTTUMWA — River Hills Community Health Center hasn’t left downtown yet, and city officials are hoping to keep it that way.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation President and CEO Brad Little said River Hills is “in a tight timeframe” on whether to move forward with its plan to construct a new facility outside city limits or to remain downtown.

“Over the past several months, it’s no secret that Rick Johnson [River Hills CEO] and his board are considering options to expand the facility, most of that including building a new facility on Hutchinson,” Little said.

This discussion led to the question: What efforts did the city to make to keep River Hills downtown? Little, Johnson, City Administrator Joe Helfenberger and Curtis Architecture owner Rod Curtis met to address this question.

“Before moving out to Hutchinson becomes a foregone conclusion, we wanted to vet that,  so wherever River Hills decides it needs to be, we can make sure that all of us as a community can say that’s the best place for them and we’ve explored all options,” Little said.

Right now, the aforementioned team is looking at building options downtown for River Hills to expand, though Little could not elaborate.

“It’s sensitive now,” he said. “[Johnson] needs an answer by the end of April or sooner. The ultimate goal is to see if there’s a way to keep River Hills downtown or go out on Hutchinson.”

While there are properties available downtown, Little said he’s not sure the dollars will align.

“Even though there’s a greenfield opportunity on Hutchinson and a need for infrastructure out there, it’s appearing that things downtown would not offset that,” he said. “I’m not sure we can get those two numbers close enough.”

Councilman Bob Meyers said hopefully as the discussion of River Hills potentially staying downtown re-opens, a two- or three-story downtown complex will “come back into the realm of possibility, as opposed to giving up a lot of land to a non-profit.”

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