State relaxes deadline for hospital seismic work |

State relaxes deadline for hospital seismic work

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun File PhotoA semi-private room in the maternity room in Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee no longer up to hospital standards. The maternity is one of the areas targeted for renovation with Measure C funding beyond the state-mandated seismic upgrades.

New California regulations may delay by more than a decade the deadline when some hospitals must complete seismic retrofits.

But it’s unclear whether the change will affect the Tahoe Forest Hospital District, which has secured the money needed to make the mountain hospital safe in an earthquake.

In a mail-in election that ended in September, more than two thirds of hospital district voters approved Measure C, a $98.5 million bond meant partly to pay for those state-mandated retrofits.

On Friday, a hospital spokesperson said administrators would need more time to understand the changes and make a comment.

The California Building Standards Commission decided last week to re-assess seismic risk for about 1,100 hospital buildings statewide, which could move some mandatory retrofit dates back from 2013 to 2030.

“The decision will mean some of those buildings considered high risk will be re-classed and have until 2030,” said spokeswoman Jan Emerson of the California Hospital Association. “But all will still have to come into compliance for hospital standards.”

Emerson said she believes 50 to 60 percent of the 1,100 hospital buildings will have their deadlines pushed back from 2013 to 2030 with the new testing’s more significant analysis.

“The first evaluation was done in the ’90s using the best tools available, and classified about 1,100 buildings out of about 2,700 state-wide as high-risk,” Emerson said. “Until the new testing is done we won’t know which hospitals are re-classified.”

Results, and the following reclassifications, should come out some time next year, she said.

Tahoe Forest Hospital administrators are looking for local residents and experts to keep tabs on how the hospital district spends the $98.5 million in bond revenues.

“The citizen’s oversight committee will be charged with two primary functions,” said Maia Schneider, director of the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation. “One will be to act as community auditors, basically looking at our receipts, and the second will be to communicate to the public to keep people informed if we’re doing what we said we were going to do with the money.”

Schneider said the district is interested in a committee with seven to nine members, including representatives of the general public, experts in business and construction, and officials with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce.

“We want a diverse group but also folks who are in the fields we are working in,” Schneider said.

So far the hospital has distributed about 20 application forms, which applicants must submit by Nov. 30. Members will likely be picked in December, with a first meeting in January, Schneider said.

“In 2008 we will mostly be educating the committee, and by late 2008-2009 when the bond proceeds start coming in, they will have something to look at,” Schneider said.

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