AUGUSTA — MaineGeneral Medical Center has secured more than $280 million to begin construction on a regional hospital.

Securing the bond sale was the last hurdle for MaineGeneral Medical Center on its way to its long-sought dream of a new regional hospital. The crucial go-ahead came in November, when the then-commissioner of the Department of Health & Human Services awarded a certificate of need for the project.

The money comes from tax-free bonds sold Wednesday through the Maine Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority, and should be available Aug. 11, when the bond sale officially closes, according to Robert Lenna, the authority’s executive director.

MaineGeneral executives have campaigned to build a regional hospital since 2002, saying it would help attract new doctors and retain patients.

“It’s incredible,” Scott Bullock, president of MaineGeneral Health, the hospital’s parent company, said Thursday. “I don’t think any of us can truly appreciate the impact this is going to have on health care in the Kennebec Valley over next few decades.”

“It’s the biggest thing that’s happened in the area in 20 years. It’s an incredible accomplishment and everyone should be proud,” said Chuck Hays, president and chief executive officer of the medical center.

Motorists traveling Old Belgrade Road should start to see evidence of the project’s start in the form of prep work at the site and hay bales placed to protect streams, Hays said.

Heavy equipment and work trailers should be on the site beginning the week of Aug. 11, Hays said, adding that a formal ground breaking will be set for September.

“It’s been a long road,” Hays said. “It’s so exciting. We just think it’s going to help the community so much.”

MaineGeneral Medical Center will now seek bids from banking institutions and money managers to hold the money for the hospital, Hays said, cautioning that the hospital cannot make money on the funds obtained through the bonds.

“The interest rates on the bonds ranged from a low of 3.45 percent for the bonds due in 2015 to a high of 7 percent for the bonds due in 2041,” Lenna said. “The overall so-called ‘true’ interest rate on the bonds is 6.96 percent.”

The authority board earlier approved a bond issuance of up to $300 million for the construction of a 192-bed hospital in north Augusta.

There is no direct or indirect liability on the State of Maine to pay the bonds, Lenna said.

Bullock credited Gregory Powell, chairman of the board of the Harold Alfond Foundation Board of Trustees, with helping to make a case last week in Boston to potential investors.

The foundation provided an outright $25 million and offered an addition sum of up to $10 million to match community dollars. It also provided a $15 million surety bond to help fund debt service reserves.

“That really helped sell the bonds,” Hays add.

The entire hospital project, including financing, is estimated at $412 million and includes $10 million in improvements at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer campus in Waterville.

Plans call for the regional hospital to consolidate the inpatient beds now in Waterville and at the downtown Augusta campus. The downtown building is to close.

The new hospital will rise alongside MaineGeneral’s largest outpatient health center, the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, which opened in north Augusta in 2007.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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