NEW TOWN The design plans for a $20 million health-care facility for the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation are moving forward.
"We're looking at a groundbreaking next spring or early summer, with a completion of 2010," said Jim Foote, project manager for the Three Affiliated Tribes' Elbowoods Memorial Health Facility.
In September, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had awarded a $1.48 million contract to launch the design phase to build the health-care facility on Fort Berthold. The contract went to HDR Architecture Inc. of Denver.
This is a conceptual design of the new Elbowoods Memorial Health Facility to be built by the Three Affiliated Tribes north of Fort Berthold Community College in New Town. The facility will have the following: entrance (in front circular area representing an earthlodge); area back of entrance includes telemedicine, security and housekeeping; right front wing includes administration, business office, public health nursing and health information management; back right wing includes pharmacy, information management and property and supply; and left wing includes primary care, laboratory, eye care, audiology and emergency medical services.
Last month, the first meeting, a planning meeting for the design portion, with representatives from the Corps, tribe including Minne-Tohe Health Center staff and planning committee, and architectural firm was held in the Tribal Administration Building west of New Town.
Perry Brady, tribal historic preservation officer, and Denby Deegan, an architect from White Shield, also are involved in the planning for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara traditions and cultural arts for the new facility.
The Corps architects and engineers plan to return to New Town Nov. 13 to finalize the plans. They will also visit the new cultural center in White Shield Nov. 12.
Six years ago, $20 million in federal money was authorized but not appropriated for the health-care facility. During last year's appropriations process, Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, secured about $3 million for the architectural and engineering portion of the project. The $1.48 million contract to start the design phase is part of the $3 million.
The $17 million for the health-care facility is in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. According to Dorgan's office, that bill is still pending. It has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee but most of the appropriations bills were put on hold and will be taken up when the new Congress convenes early next year.
Site on north side of New Town
The new health facility will be built on 120-acres that the tribe owns, north of Fort Berthold Community College in New Town. Foote said this amount of acreage will allow for expansion. He said the environmental review and soil testing of the land was completed and the site has been approved.
The new health-care facility will replace the existing Minne-Tohe Health Center west of New Town. The Minne-Tohe (which means "Blue Water") is the main medical facility for the Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold. It was built in the 1960s as an out-patient clinic, operating five days a week.
The name of the new facility, Elbowoods Memorial Health Facility, is from the community of Elbowoods, which had a hospital with the same name. Elbowoods, which was flooded when Garrison Dam was built, was the headquarters for all of the Indian agency's programs. The hospital closed but a clinic operated there until it was moved to New Town in the 1950s. The clinic operated in New Town in a small building, then moved to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Administration Building before the Minne-Tohe building was built.
"This is being named to commemorate the hospital we lost," Foote said.
The new health facility will focus on preventive health, wellness and education, Foote said. "But it will have extended hours 24/7 emergency medical services." He said there will also be ambulances and garages at the site.
The entire health-care facility will be 43,000-square-feet, which is six times larger than the present Minne-Tohe Health Center. Some programs that do not exist now in the Minne-Tohe center will be provided in the new facility, including eye care and audiology. A physical therapy program, which is not offered at Minne-Tohe, will be located in the Northern Lights community building west of the new health center.
The existing Minne-Tohe facility is being looked over for converting it to tribal programs and also renovating it for the dental program, Foote said.
Once everything is set up and finalized, Foote said tribal officials also are looking at opening up the new health-care facility to nontribal members as well. The Minne-Tohe serves members of the Three Affiliated Tribes and other American Indian tribes.
First phase of project
The first phase of the health-care facility project will include hiring about 80 additional staff members, Foote said. He said there are 38 full-time staff currently at the Minne-Tohe.
A planning committee is working on the new health facility and includes Marcus Wells Jr., chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes and committee chairman; Roger White Owl, tribal programs analyst; Max Dickens Sr., federal programs chief executive officer; Laurie Alberts, tribal programs CEO; Lisa Redford, director of the tribal Planning and Grants Management Department; Stella Berquist, chief executive officer of the Minne-Tohe; Jennifer Fyten, tribal attorney; Brian Buerer, Minot, engineer with Indian Health Service; Sandy Coulter, planning officer with the Indian Health Service Aberdeen, S.D., office; Annette Youngbird, director of tribal Natural Resources; and Jim Foote, project manager.
The second phase of the project will be siting and expanding the emergency medical service program, Foote said.
Vonnie Alberts, press secretary for the Three Affiliated Tribes, said quarterly updates about the health-care facility project will be provided to the public.
She said visuals of the project will be available in mid-November and displayed in the entry to tribal chambers in the Tribal Administration Building.