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Conjecture begins on consolidated VA clinic site

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Published:   |   Updated: August 1, 2014 at 02:55 PM

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After Congress tentatively set aside funds for a consolidated Veterans Affairs clinic in West Pasco, city, county and federal officials are wondering where the clinic might be located.

Speculation so far largely fallen on the site of the former Community Hospital, on Marine Parkway east of Grand Boulevard. Redevelopment of the area has been a hot topic ever since a July 2013 summit.

The HCA hospital moved and became Medical Center of Trinity, but maintains a satellite facility in a small portion of the buildings on Marine Parkway. The Medical Center of Trinity West Pasco Campus provides behavioral health care services.

There would be some drawbacks with a consolidated VA clinic inside the city limits, New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe said Tuesday night. The city could not levy property taxes on a publicly owned building, he noted.

Marlowe is convinced, however, a VA clinic could have a “big impact” on nearby businesses and offices that sprung up around Community Hospital following its 1971 opening.

The question remains whatHCA, based in Nashville, Tennessee, might want to do with its Marine Parkway assets, Marlowe added.

Mario Iezzoni, New Port Richey’s economic development manager, said he has stayed in touch with HCA executives in recent months and plans to touch base with them again in a few weeks.

Property values in the Marine Parkway-Grand Boulevard area have registered a bigger drop than the city as a whole since the Community Hospital move to Trinity, Iezzoni said. Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells agress.

So city officials naturally would like to boost the area, Iezzoni said.

Vast sections of the former Community Hospital buildings have remained vacant since the 2012 move. The main building encloses some 273,000 square feet. The parcel includes more than 24 acres.

HCA abandoned plans last year for an emergency room on the site because of high renovation costs.

Federal smart growth advisers visited here Wednesday and Thursday to stage workshops, //according to Pasco County Planning and Development Administrator Richard Gehring.

“I have been approached by many individuals with ideas for where the new facility should be located,” U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, wrote in a message Tuesday.

Bilirakis helped shape the compromise legislation to fund VA health care facility improvements here and across the country. The deal still requires votes in the full House and Senate, possibly by Friday, and then would go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

“While the final decision rests with the VA, I will be working to ensure all potential sites are considered,” Bilirakis commented. The VA leases five health care facilities in West Pasco.

Leigh Massengill, CEO of Medical Center of Trinity, wrote in an email Tuesday, “We have discussed for some time the possibility of adding a wide range of services at the Medical Center of Trinity West Pasco Campus, where there is ample space and parking, and we would welcome the opportunity to explore this further.”

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