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      New Jefferson City health center reaches milestone

      Workers marked a milestone Friday morning in the construction of the new St. Mary's Health Center in Jefferson City.The final steel beam for the hospital superstructure was hoisted into place, in what is known as a "topping out" ceremony. The structure, which is visible for some distance from its perch on a hill above Highway 179 in west central Jefferson City, is imposing.Today's milestone was the elevation of the final beam 60 feet to fill the last gap in the superstructure. It's a moment steeped in tradition, right down to the Scandinavian habit of including a tree to symbolize the sacrifice made by the forest."The beam in front of you has been signed by many who have helped make this hospital possible," Brent Vanconia, the St. Mary's president, said. "We've collected hundreds of signatures from employees, physicians, community, and of course, the hospital project team."Like many construction jobs, the new health center building presented some challenges."This particular site was completely rock when we started," Tim Gunn, project director, said. "We excavated and blasted about thirty feet of rock to put these foundations in." Now, just a year after the first trees were removed, the steel superstructure is virtually complete, rising five stories to a height that eventually should provide a spectacular view."We've expended over 70,000 work hours on the project so far, without a lost-time injury," Gunn said. "And we expect to spend nearly one million work hours by the time the project is completed in a little over a year from now."The project is on schedule, with a price tag of nearly $200 million.