Sidney Health Center CEO Jennifer Doty and board president Lance Everett, along with Jordan Mayer and Kaden Bedwell from Interstate Engineering, presented plans to Parks and Recreation Committee (PRC) at the Nov. 12 meeting for a paved parking lot over a substantial portion of Johnson Park, located south of the hospital on 14th Avenue SW.
Doty said the hospital has a current and urgent need for additional parking and options are limited. Currently, there are approximately 305 spots available. The plans to pave Johnson Park would provide another 118 spots, per plans presented. Doty and Everett said the hospital employs 500 people and there are an estimated 150 employees onsite during the day. As the staff grows, the number of spots available to patients dwindles.
The estimated cost of the project was between $912,895 to $1.3 million. Sidney Health Center would lease the parking lot from the city upon completion.
Stephanie Ridl, parks superintendent, said she’s not opposed to the project as a whole, but she is opposed to how far south the parking spots run. She also said Johnson is one of the few parks with open green space and to lose that would hinder future plans for the park, which include an adult fitness course and a boulder community.
PRC discussed the perceived parking issue and said in their experience, there are generally parking spots available, but they might not be the closest ones. If people are unwilling to walk from the far sides of the current parking lot, then how likely are they to walk from Johnson Park? Doty informed PRC that the lot could not be designated as employee parking because it would qualify as an employee perk and affect taxable fringe benefits.
There were concerns about a possible new build for the hospital in 10 years or more and what would happen to the parking lot at that time. PRC also wanted to solicit public opinion before any recommendations were made to Sidney City Council.
Other options explored by the hospital have been shuttling people from the county fairgrounds and possibly paving over the side street that runs by Healthworks between 12th and 14th. It’s not a city street, but hospital property that could be turned into additional parking.
PRC agreed to table the discussion until the Dec. 10 meeting, but did propose asking the hospital if they’d be willing to lease a 70-spot lot instead, eliminating the 58 spots that went further south. The committee will also discuss how the potential project may change their parks prioritization projects list.
Editor’s note: Due to the recording of the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting being unusable, quotes were paraphrased instead of directly attributed.