The Bethel skyline has taken a dramatic turn. Since this summer, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has added a three-story primary care center next to its hospital. The new building is big, partially constructed, and currently blue, but won’t stay that color for long. KYUK talked with the builders and has this update.
“Watch your feet, it’s a construction site,” Construction Manager Grant Leader says as he opens a plywood door into the first floor. Within it is a dim, cavernous space with only a few walls erected. Orange sparks flash in one corner and loud mechanical noises rise from every direction. Workers wearing hard hats and reflective vests stand on ladders and walk between steel beams.
“Right now the crews are focused here with the framing for the interior walls on the first floor," Leader said. "Mechanical, plumbing, duct work is also focused here and on the third floor.”
The ceiling and beams are covered in what looks like concrete and feels like paper mache; it’s spray-on fireproofing.
“It covers the beams, and the decking, and all the columns,” Leader explains.
The crew is ahead of schedule. Though the rain has seemed unending since construction began in June, the weather has stayed warm. The steel frame is complete, the roof attached, the outside wrapped in a blue, waterproof skin, and most of the outside windows are installed. Workers are already attaching exterior metal panels to the outside, something that wasn’t expected to happen until next year.
Eighty workers are employed on the project. Josh Pepperd, President of Davis Constructors and Engineers, says that 30 of those workers were hired from the region.
“I would like to encourage folks that, if they would like to be hired on, to be as proactive as they can," he said. "We have over a thousand applicants.”
Most regional hires were found through applications submitted via the project website, by people stopping by the physical job site, or through searching Calista Corporation’s list of shareholder and descendent resumes: what Calista calls its Talent Bank.
Some regional hires are journeymen, and others are apprentices on track to work their way to becoming journeymen through this project. The number of workers will peak at up to 150 employees by the end of winter, and they’re still hiring.
“We’re going to be looking to hire locally as much as we can," Pepperd said, "but there are only another 40 to 50 positions before we start down the other side of the curve.”
YKHC President and CEO Dan Winkleman has told KYUK in past interviews that he’d like to see as many regional hires as possible. Davis Constructors and Engineers has a corporate goal to use Native residents whenever possible, but Davis President Josh Pepperd says that there is no procedure or policy written into Davis’ contract with YKHC concerning native hire.
“We just have an agreement with YK to do our best, which is what we’re doing,” Pepperd said.
The construction project will expand YKHC’s medical service capabilities. For example, the number of dental chairs will grow from six to 33, and the number of exam rooms will more than triple from 20 to 75.
Construction should last through the year 2021.