When Tom Barb jumped into the front seat of a piece of heavy machinery and drove several yards to dump a pile of dirt at the site for the new Brooksville Regional Hospital, most people roared with laughter.
But a few quietly stepped out of the front-end loader's trajectory, on the off-chance that the hospital executive's excitement would bubble out of control.
A blustery winter wind provided the only problems Wednesday during the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Brooksville Regional Hospital. The wind blew over decorative plants and a framed portrait of the new hospital, which shattered when it hit the ground during the ceremony.
"I promise the new hospital will be much sturdier," Barb said.
The groundbreaking kicks off two years of construction on 130 acres at Cortez Boulevard and Lykes Dublin Road. The 91-bed hospital will cost more than $30-million. It will start with three floors and can be expanded to five, Barb said.
The hospital had waited a long time for the groundbreaking. Company executives first announced plans to rebuild the hospital 3 miles farther west in June 2000. But Oak Hill Hospital challenged the petition for a new hospital at the state level, which delayed the move for two years. Last February, the state ruled in favor of Brooksville Regional Hospital, and plans for the new building moved forward.
"It was not easy," Barb told a crowd of about 100 dignitaries, business leaders, and hospital employees and volunteers. "It was a long, tedious process to get to this point."