A $9.93 million loan of federal stimulus money has been awarded to the Marana Health Center to help construct its three-story main clinic just west of the Marana Municipal Complex.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the 40-year, 4 percent interest loan last Thursday. Carol McGorray, chairwoman of the MHC board, said it was the second-largest stimulus award in the country. "That's pretty amazing," she said.

The stimulus-funded loan will allow the center to begin building a 74,656-square-foot, expandable, tri-level facility on seven acres of its 26-acre site west of the Marana Municipal Complex. The first part of the three-phase project should enable service to 50,000-plus patients making 150,000 visits each year. Construction is expected to begin within two weeks.

"It was a long struggle," McGorray said. "It's a blessing. This is coming to fruition, and I am so pleased.

"It's going to be such a boon to Marana, it's going to be such a boon to Main Street."

"We're very pleased with it," said Clarence Vatne, chief executive officer of MHC. "We've been working on it for a long time. There's a great need here in Marana for it, and I think it'll provide an outstanding service to the community."

When the building is complete, MHC expects to replace its main clinic at 13644 N. Sandario Road in Marana. The present clinic is an early-1960s adobe structure with an addition in 2001. With 17,000 square feet of space, the clinic "is strained to the limit," a release said.

In its original estimate, MHC thought the new project would cost $22 million. "The figures have changed somewhat," McGorray said. "As dire as everything is, and it's always bad news economically, the bids came in significantly lower than anticipated. That was a real help."

The cost is now expected to be $20 million. It is being financed through this loan, bank financing and operating funds from the health center, Vatne said.

Johnson Carlier Inc., of Tempe is the general contractor. It has local offices. "They have been at our side for the past six years," McGorray said. When construction begins, the company has 330 days to complete the work. The firm Jacobs is the architect.

MHC blessed the ground last year. Infrastructure is now in place. Within the next few weeks, with paperwork finalized, "you'll see the activity of construction," she said. Over time, MHC hopes to bring in "more free-standing buildings, hopefully all medical related," McGorray said.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords welcomed Vilsack's announcement.

"The Marana Health Center has done an outstanding job of delivering medical care to the people of Marana and Northwest Pima County for more than a half-century," Giffords said. "This loan will allow the center to expand and further meet the needs of the community."

Marana Health Center opened in 1957, providing health care to migrant farm workers. Today it is a multi-service health care clinic and community services center serving rural and metro Northwest Pima County. In addition to the main clinic in Marana, there are 17 other facilities offering medical, dental and behavioral health, as well as specialized health care to women and teens.

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