OTTUMWA — Expanding River Hills Community Health Center downtown continues to be a priority with the Ottumwa City Council.
Earlier this week, the council authorized city staff to survey the property, prepare a draft developers agreement as well as prepare for the reconfiguration of River Drive.
River Hills is considering the expansion of its building in downtown Ottumwa rather than pulling out of downtown Ottumwa and building elsewhere. In order to accommodate the expansion, River Hills is seeking assistance from the city to allow the expansion to occur.
While city fathers believe the expansion will be good for the community, River Hills is asking for some concessions, including deeding the property currently used as parking lot and public restrooms between the existing River Hills buildings and River Drive.
River Hills has agreed to pay all closing costs, while the city would require them to have the building to be constructed within a three-year period or the land would be conveyed back to the city at River Hills' expense.
Public restrooms would be removed at River Hills’ expense and not replaced.
Presently River Drive is four lanes. The city would have to reconfigure River Drive from Market Street to the west to the driveway by the Railroad Depot from four lanes to two lanes, with the two outside lanes to be used for street parking. The entire right-of-way would remain city property.
City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said the city will work with individuals who work in the Wapello Building and River Hills to designate a different area for employees to park.
Rick Johnson, River Hills’ CEO, said changing parking habits will be the biggest obstacle to tackle. Presently, he said, employees in the Wapello Building are playing “musical cars” in the parking lot, thus taking up valuable parking space for River Hills’ patrons.