By Linda Lipp, Greater Fort Wayne Business  Weekly

They don't know exactly where, and they don't know exactly when, but the members of the Wabash County Hospital board of trustees know they need to replace their old hospital and have taken the first steps toward building a replacement.

The board has formed a building committee and has hired the Hagerman Group to provide construction management services and advice for the proposed $30-million project.

There is no specific timeline for the construction, and the hospital and the building committee are moving cautiously in light of the weak economy, said Kerri Mattern, director of marketing and public relations for the independent, county-owned hospital. But one thing is clear. "The current building is not going to work long-term," she said.

The plan calls for construction of a new 75,000-square-foot hospital, which would be smaller than the current facility. A 35,000-square-foot medical office building also would be built as part of the project. The replacement facility could be built at the site of the existing hospital, 710 N. East St., or at another location.

"There's lots and lots of options. We haven't narrowed it down," Mattern said.

The current hospital is licensed for 25 beds, and also has 25 long-term care beds. The oldest part of the facility was built in the 1950s, with several additions made over the subsequent 30 years.

"The current hospital was designed when inpatient was the bulk of the business. Now, it's outpatient," Mattern noted. The new hospital would continue to be a critical care access facility, providing emergency and surgical services and inpatient care among other services.

"We recognize how vital this hospital is to its community ... This new facility will serve patients of the hospital and surrounding communities for generations to come," said Mark Hagerman, CEO of the Hagerman Group.

Hagerman spokesman Jim Banks said he didn't expect construction to begin until 2011. The contractor is helping with the selection of an architect and engineer, and also consulting on the site selection process. "The community is evaluating the best location," Banks said.

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