Council voices support of Catawba Hospital; Library and stadium to undergo renovations

On Monday night, Salem City Council members made their support for Catawba Hospital clear.

Council approved a resolution requesting that the General Assembly take no action in closing the hospital. The Craig County Board of Supervisors and Roanoke County Board of Supervisors have passed similar resolutions.

“As many of our neighboring communities have done, we have expressed a desire that the state take another look at the proposed closing of the Catawba Hospital,” said City Manager Kevin Boggess.

The 110- bed Roanoke County mental health facility is a major area employer, and council stressed that not only would closing it cause job loss, but would be detrimental to the community’s overall well-being.

“Obviously it has an impact in a number of ways to the City of Salem, both in terms of being a large employer in our area, but in terms of being a resource for our folks who need those services,” Boggess said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recommended closing the hospital in his budget proposal. The next closest state psychiatric hospital is in Staunton, which Boggess said would put a major strain on the sheriff’s department.

“If Catawba closes, then they’re going to spend a lot more time on the road taking these folks to other facilities,” Boggess said. “We really need something in this region of the state.”

“I would just like to reiterate that I think that the Catawba Hospital is very important to our community in many different ways,” Mayor Randy Foley added. “I think that it is important that we stand with our colleagues in other communities and support that they maintain the hospital as it is.”

Also at the meeting, council members approved a resolution borrowing funds to finance Salem Memorial Stadium renovations. The updates are part of a 10-year extension deal with Fenway Sports Group.

Stadium updates are not to exceed $1.1 million over a two-year period. Work is still being planned, but will need to be completed by the beginning of baseball season. A major improvement will be re-caulking and water sealing the entire stadium. Next year, the outfield fence will be replaced.

Finally, council approved a resolution accepting and appropriating a $10,000 donation from the estate of Nicholas Economy to be put towards library updates.

Economy listed Salem Public Library as a beneficiary in his will. According to Boggess, the library will use the funding to purchase furnishings and carpet.

“Our librarian, Ann Tripp, has picked out some modern furniture that has chargers built in for iPads and smart phones,” Boggess said. “It will be a really nice improvement to the area that’s had some water damage. Some of that furniture dates back to the ‘70s.”

The Feb. 22 Salem City Council meeting has been cancelled, but council members will meet on Feb. 28 and March 3 to discuss budget items. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, March 14.

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