Story by Mike Nolting, MetroNews

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — WVU Medicine is taking another step in their $110 million revitalization of the Fairmont Medical Center announced in 2020.

Aaron Yanuzo

Work is underway on a energy plant that is expected to be running by late this year or early 2025. A ground breaking ceremony was held last week.

The project will replace the existing system that has performed well beyond its’ scheduled lifespan and will increase efficiency and reliability. FMC Chief Operations Officer Aaron Yanuzo said with the HAVAC system, areas of the hospital did not heat or cool consistently, leading to issues with patient and staff comfort.

“The technology from the 1930’s has been running this hospital and that entire campus for the better part of 80 years,” Yanuzo said.

With the new energy plant, all existing in-room heating and cooling units will be removed and replaced with a thermostat. Patients will have added comfort and the ability to individually control each room.

“It will be similar to a residential look and feel where there are thermostats in every room; ventilation is done either by floor vents or heating vents,” Yanuzo said.

The existing 1930s boiler system takes up most of the basement in the building. According to Yanuzo, the new system can operate on multiple fuels and will be an upgrade in terms of efficiency, reliability, and maintenance.

“We’ll have backup systems and redundant systems; it will give us the ability to bring steam and heat into the building,” Yanuzo said. “It will actually help us consolidate some power and IT issues as well.”

The new plant will be built in the lower parking lot to the north of the hospital and across the street from Fairmont State University. The placement makes the components more accessible during maintenance operations. The original budget for the system was in the $20 million range, but the pandemic, inflation, and current economic conditions have increased the project budget substantially.

“I think we’re targeting right now about $30 million, but that could be as much as $35 million,” Yanuzo said.

The new system is part of the modernization effort for the building and will have many value-added aspects, but upgrading the system is the right thing to do for the patients.

“Will we see savings in power and consumption? Probably, but the bigger thing for us is making sure that this building and this campus are viable and can meet the needs of the community and the patients that come here.”