Samaritan looks to fall groundbreaking for cancer center

Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, is starting a new advisory council that will include former patients as members. The health care provider aims  to receive feedback from people who have experienced care as consumers so hospital officials can better address patient needs and solve problems. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Business.

Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, is starting a new advisory council that will include former patients as members. The health care provider aims to receive feedback from people who have experienced care as consumers so hospital officials can better address patient needs and solve problems. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Samaritan Medical Center officials hope to break ground in the fall on a new comprehensive cancer treatment center.

Plans call for constructing the 17,300-square-foot, two-story addition behind the medical office building off Woodruff Street.

The project was announced last summer.

The hospital plans to make significant enhancements to cancer care in the north country by opening a specialized treatment center. Construction would take about a year to complete.

But the start of the project depends on getting site plan approval in June for the cancer center, a new parking scheme and a planned maternity ward and pediatric unit, said Matthew R. Morgia, an engineer with Aubertine and Currier, the local firm designing the projects. To get to that point, the hospital must get approvals for variances through the Zoning Board of Appeals and a series of zoning changes and special use permits.

A delay in the site plan would “push back” the start of construction on the project, Mr. Morgia said.

“There’s lots of approvals,” Mr. Morgia. “It’s a five-month process.”

Mr. Morgia presented the city’s Planning Board an outline for the project, which includes adding four new parking lots in the site plan. No action was taken because four variances associated with the parking lots must be OK’d by the zoning board.

The four different variances involve seven parcels that would be used to expand parking along Woodruff and Washington streets and for the hospital to reconfigure a parking lot along Sherman Street.

The hospital is asking for a variance on a 20-foot setback on the parking lot. The zoning board is expected to make a decision on the variances at its meeting later this month.

After Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, City Planner Jeffrey “JP” Polkowski said Samaritan should be able to receive the site plan by the June time frame.

City Council is expected to give a final say at the June 22 meeting.

“It’s very doable,’ he said. “I think they can get it.”

Samaritan recently acquired a series of properties and demolished a handful of houses to create the additional parking, which is required for the addition. Once finished, the hospital will have 1,028 spaces, one more than the required amount.

Samaritan also plans to construct a three-story, nearly 18,000-square-foot addition that would devote the third-floor primarily to children’s care. The hospital announced that project in January.

That addition would be built parallel to Sherman Street and adjacent to the hospital’s loading zone at the back of the Washington Street medical center.

Christopher J. Bastien, assistant vice president of support services, said the hospital still must get a certificate of need approved by the state Department of Health before that project would start.

“I don’t know when it will start,” he said. “It’ll be after the cancer center.”

The cancer and maternity/pediatric centers are a part of a comprehensive expansion plan that Samaritan has begun.

In November, Samaritan purchased a three-story medical office building on the hospital campus from owner Rothschild Breuer and Associates, Syracuse, for $14.4 million.

Two years ago, the hospital constructed a two-level connecting structure, linking the hospital with Samaritan Keep Home.

In recent years, Samaritan also completed a $61 million expansion and renovations that totaled 71,500 square feet.

By Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times