Picayune: "Advocates send message with billboard"

BATON ROUGE -- The Foundation for Historical Louisiana, one of the groups calling for the state to gut and rebuild within the shell of Charity Hospital, has taken its message to lawmakers in the form of billboard near the Capitol.

As lawmakers contemplate hundreds of millions of dollars in state budget cuts, the billboard states: "Want to save $283 million? Reopen, Restore Charity Hospital." That dollar figure represents the estimated difference between what an architectural firm, hired by the foundation, estimated a Charity gutting would cost versus the state's proposed plans for a new 424-bed hospital in lower Mid-City.

Each side disputes the numbers touted by the other. State facilities director Jerry Jones said it is impossible to estimate the costs of construction involving 70-year-old buildings such as Charity. Foundation spokeswoman Sharon Stokes points to new construction -- particularly on major complexes, including hospitals -- that come in over budget, as well.

As it stands, the state is in the middle of its design phase for the hospital, though it's financing plans still await resolution of the state's dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over how much Louisiana is due for Hurricane Katrina damage to Charity. The state says it can open a hospital by 2013.


Original Article: "Charity Hospital advocates send message
by Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune
May 13th, 2009