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Originally published: 2013-08-31 16:35:24
Last modified: 2013-08-31 16:35:24

State grant for hospital in 'good standing'

by Kellen Short

Healthcare system administrators say they have received notice that a $585,495 state grant promised for the new Chestnut Ridge at Blowing Rock project is in "good standing."

The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System now hopes to use that pledge to apply for other grants and to start work on the project soon, said Rob Hudspeth, senior vice president for advancement in the ARHS Foundation.

Chestnut Ridge will replace the Blowing Rock Hospital and will provide rehabilitative services, long-term nursing care, Alzheimer's support and palliative care.

Hudspeth said Friday that he had heard recently from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the agency tasked with continuing the work previously conducted by the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.

The center was defunded in July and its leaders asked to resign after a state audit found several points of concern, including a generous director's salary and inadequate oversight of some grants.

Since Aug. 1, the Office of the State Budget and Management has worked to evaluate and distribute the Rural Center's pending grants, authorizing 112 grants totaling more than $5.5 million so far.

OSBM announced the authorization of 41 more grants Friday but did not include the hospital project on the list.

"The Office of State Budget and Management continues to work diligently to review these grants so we can honor these commitments to our rural communities," Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement.

The grant, which is technically given to the Town of Blowing Rock, will provide about a third of the cost of water and sewer needs associated with the project. Hudspeth said he wasn't certain when the money would be in hand but that "it's there when we need it."

The hospital and the town of Blowing Rock also are seeking a $426,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration, he said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation will seek bids in September for the project's entry road, awarding a contract in December, Hudspeth said. Some of the road work - a crucial early step - can proceed simultaneously with water and sewer infrastructure building, he said.

Hudspeth thanked those who have supported the project, including Rep. Virginia Foxx, Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan, Rep. Jonathan Jordan and former Rep. Cullie Tarleton.

"There's been a real groundswell of support to get this project going, and lot of people in the community that really reached out in our behalf," he said.