Grand River’s grand opening |

Grand River’s grand opening

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

Pinstripe suits and top hats ruled the day Saturday at Grand River Medical Center’s grand opening celebrations.

“We like to dress up for these occasions,” said Claud Dutro, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Colorado Masons. Dutro, who heads up the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Colorado, was one of a dozen Masons invited by Masons Lodge 129 of Rifle and the Grand River Hospital District’s board of directors to perform an official cornerstone laying ceremony at the new medical center Saturday afternoon.

By the time the ceremony was held, Kris Swanson, the Grand River Hospital District’s public relations director, said more than 700 people had taken part in grand opening events, which included guided tours of the new hospital, and a complementary barbecue lunch.

At 2 p.m., as about 200 people looked on, four members of Rifle Boy Scout Troop 223 got into formation in front of the medical center and marched towards the flagpole. One of the Scouts carried a folded American flag donated to the medical center by U.S. Congressman Scott McInnis. The flag had flown over the United States Capitol prior to its appearance in Rifle.

“Raise the colors and salute!,” shouted one of the Scouts, as troop members unfurled the flag, clipped it onto the flagpole line and pulled it high overhead where it fluttered in the afternoon wind.

After the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Dutro and the rest of the well-dressed Masons wearing white leather aprons, white gloves, and purple and gold collars over their suits, led onlookers gathered around the medical center’s entranceway through an elaborate cornerstone dedication ceremony.

“This ceremony is as old as the art of building,” said Mason Bob Travis.

Travis told the crowd the Masons had assembled a time capsule filled with newspaper articles about the construction of the medical center, names of the medical center’s staff and board of directors, and Mason information. The capsule, a tan-colored metal box, was placed in the wall behind where the cornerstone would be cemented into place, in the brick wall just to the left of the hospital’s main entrance.

After several Masons ceremoniously measured the cornerstone with a square, a level and a plumb to make certain it was straight and true, Claud Dutro asked several people to help apply the cement into the cornerstone’s square opening. One of those people was Eleanor Clagett Reed, daughter of Dr. Oscar Frederick Clagett whom Rifle’s soon-to-be replaced Clagett Memorial Hospital was named.

“I’m privileged to see this new hospital,” said Reed, 97. “I’m so impressed. It’s wonderful to see what my father started more than 50 years ago is culminating in this wonderful facility.”

With that, the cornerstone, dated May 10, 2003, was placed into the medical center’s front wall, and Dutro presented Rifle Mason Jim Gerloff with a gold ceremonial trowel, signifying the end of the cornerstone ceremony.

Dutro introduced several community leaders attending the grand opening, including Grand River Hospital District board president Bruce Mills, and Grand River Medical Center’s chief executive officer Pat Howery. In addition, Garfield County Commissioners Larry McCown and Tresi Houpt were in attendance, as well as the mayors, town council members and town trustees of Parachute, Rifle and Silt.

“Wow!,” said Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert. “What a facility! I haven’t had a chance to tour the center before today. It’s clear Rifle is growing and changing and that Grand River Hospital District is leading that change. I want to offer my congratulations, and I want to welcome the new hospital to our town.”

Pat Howery thanked Davis Partnership Architects from Denver for designing the center, and David Rhyne, a principal from the firm, took the podium and acknowledged the work of architect Marcia Lester. In a coincidental twist of fate, Lester’s grandparents owned the ranch land where Rifle’s new Super Wal-Mart is being built, across Airport Road from the new medical center.

“Yes, it’s pretty coincidental,” said Lester. “When I saw we were awarded the contract for the new medical center in Rifle, I was surprised since my grandparents, the Shaefers, had their house here for years. Then, when I found out the hospital was right across the street from my grandparents’ old place, I couldn’t believe it. That’s why when I was asked if I wanted to work on this project I said, `Absolutely.’ It was sort of my way of giving back to Rifle.”

U.S. Congressman Scott McInnis attended the opening as well.

“I’ve been to a lot of dedications of buildings,” he said, “but this building is one that I can truly say will save lives. I know that any time you spend big dollars on a facility like this, you come under a lot of heat, especially in a suffering economy. But I’d like to say that the board of directors made the right decision in ensuring that this center would be built.”

Public relations director Kris Swanson said the project came in at budget at $16.5 million, which was paid for by a voter-approved bond issue. She said the State of Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs out of Grand Junction, kicked in an additional $500,000 grant, which helped pay for new medical equipment.

Tim Sarmo, the regional manager of the local affairs office, said the grant came out of royalty payments from the district’s oil and mineral impact fund.

“We extract nonrenewable resources, but by giving back in this way, we hope to renew resources, too,” he said.

Wielding a gargantuan pair of scissors, Eleanor Clagett Reed was given the honors of cutting the ribbon at the entrance of the center. After a round of applause, the crowd gathered around the center’s new heli-pad as a helicopter from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction circled the building and made a perfect landing on the giant H painted on the pad’s concrete slab.

Patients will need to be patient before utilizing the heli-pad or hospital. Although the medical center’s clinic is now open for office visits, the hospital, emergency room services, rehabilitation center and helicopter pad won’t be open for business until next Saturday, May 17. All hospital patients are being treated at Clagett Memorial Hospital until the final move on Saturday.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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