Candidate Continues Relocation Opposition
DUNKIRK — Frank Beach, a city of Dunkirk resident who is running for office, has been trying to garner support for keeping Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk since December.
He’s been the backbone behind the protest marches and petitions that have been circulating around for the last several months — and he isn’t slowing down.
“In December of 2018 there was a meeting of the old reuse committee for the hospital,” Beach said in an recent interview. “After that meeting, I went to another meeting with Marty Bamonto, which it really boiled down to being about 10 minutes of ‘what are we going to use the building for’ and 50 minutes of ‘you have to convince everyone that the new location is a good idea.'”
In Beach’s opinion, the new location is not a good idea. “I have a personal stake in this,” he said. “My mother worked at Brooks 50 years ago, but that’s not the only reason — on Feb. 26 of 2018 I had a massive heart attack.”
Beach said he drove himself to Brooks where they injected him with clot-busters, but by the time his wife arrived the doctors thought he was going to die. Once stable enough, he was moved to Buffalo General, where they put stents in — he then experienced a second heart attack during surgery.
“While in ICU, the cardiologist told me that ‘if you had not gotten there as quick as you did, and the response wasn’t as efficient as it was, you would have been dead,'” Beach relayed. “If the hospital had been where they’re proposing it, I’d have been dead on the side of Route 60; another two minutes and I might not be alive now.”
When the announcement came of the possible move to Main Street in Fredonia, he dove head first into keeping the hospital in Dunkirk. It was at this time he began sketching out a design that would fit, in his opinion, within the grant requirements, dollar figures and desires of the community.
“We can keep it where it is; design a new building that’ll be bigger than what the board is even looking for, and incorporate parking for a lot more than just the hospital,” Beach stated.
“What if we put a parking garage where the soccer field at the middle school is now and then put the soccer field where the existing parking lot is,” Beach explained. “The cost for the garage would be about $3.9 million and be city owned and operated, so it would be revenue-generating, but it would also provide parking for the hospital, middle school and the church across the street — obviously the school would have passes.”
He wasn’t sure if it would be a grant or bonded out issue, but he believes by not having to buy the land in Fredonia, that grant money can be put toward the construction of the garage. However the Dunkirk City School District would have to agree to this idea and be willing and able to sell the land. Despite that, Beach offered up his plan for the hospital itself.
“The portion of the building put on in 1990 was built foundationally to support three more floors,” He started. “We would therefore put those floors on and those would be the patient suites. We’d put the heli-pad on the top. The addition moving out from there would be then a 65,000 to 70,000 square-foot new facility. Their plans call for a 100,000 square foot total structure. This design would 70,000 plus an additional 50,000, making it a bit larger. I’m also proposing that on the top floor of the old section, we retain, for specific purpose, 10-15 rooms that they have now, in case of a catastrophe. For the remainder there could be office and retail space and perhaps a section where people can stay because they have kids there.”
He went on to compare the whole layout of Central Avenue to a shopping mall.
“The first thing you’re going to plan on is your anchors.,” Beach pointed out. “For us in Dunkirk, the north anchor is the new pier, the south anchor will be the hospital, which basically puts everything in the middle up for grabs. They want 30 acres to build a medical complex. We got them — the lot across the street from city hall, the Ehlers building, all those buildings from Third to Seventh Street. The plan is to not just keep the hospital here, the plan is to make it for the whole city. We have to do something from a humanitarian standpoint.”
Despite his voracity, Beach, who is running as the Democratic candidate for the Councilman-at-large seat in November, feels that people are thinking his interest is a vote grab.
“My investment in this has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “This whole thing for me, started even before I was considering running for election. I don’t want politics to dissuade from this. If this is looked at objectively, this is feasible, it’s tangible, can be done within budget, it solves all the fiduciary responsibility of the board of directors for Brooks, plus, it gives Dunkirk a medical center and it gives them something to sell for their downtown. If we’re looking to develop, bring people here and grow our city, the two things people from out-of-town look for when buying a home is schools and healthcare.”
Beach has sent his plans to various individuals including the Commissioner of Health in Albany, the Director of Budgeting, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.