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A rendering of what an expanded St. Tammany Parish Hospital would look like following completion of a $54 million, four-story addition to the complex in Covington. Officials with the hospital, parish, City of Covington and more gathered on Nov. 27 to break ceremonial ground on the expansion, which will be the largest at the public hospital in 16 years.

St. Tammany Parish Hospital officials broke ground Nov. 27 on a $54 million, four-story building that, along with additional parking and other renovations, will add up to a $100 million expansion that's the largest for the public hospital in 16 years.

The project will improve the Covington-based hospital's environment for critical care, as well as women's and children's care, STPH President and CEO Joan Coffman told a gathering of political officials and health care representatives.

According to a news release, the expansion is intended to keep up with the population on the north shore, which is projected to increase by 5.7 percent in the next five years.

St. Tammany Parish Hospital, the largest hospital in St. Tammany, consistently has 85 percent occupancy, and on busy days its parking lots can be full.

The hospital has 233 patient beds. It will grow to 246 beds after the expansion, but all semiprivate rooms will be renovated to become private rooms, reducing the number of beds in those rooms, spokeswoman Melissa Hodgson said.

Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, one of several speakers at the groundbreaking, noted the hospital opened as a 15-bed general hospital in 1954, three blocks away from where Cooper lived as a child.

"My dad (former Mayor Ernest Cooper) was asked to be one of the first to donate blood (here,)" Cooper said, adding that the hospital considered moving out of Covington as it grew in the following decades, but was persuaded to stay by city leaders.

The hospital has seen continued growth, he said, culminating in the Millennium Project that tripled the size of the hospital when it was completed in 2002.

St. Tammany President Pat Brister praised the hospital for anticipating and recognizing the needs of parish residents through projects like the new addition and its partnership with Ochsner Health Care Systems.

Sara Pagones

Sheriff's Office offers 'Safe Ride Home'

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office will once again offer rides this holiday season to people who are too inebriated to drive.

The Safe Ride Home program will provide rides to residents who don't have a designated driver or are unable to arrange for a ride home. They can call the sheriff's office at (985) 898-2338 to request a ride from a deputy, without cost or penalty.

A Sheriff’s deputy will pick up those requesting a ride home in St. Tammany Parish. Rides are available to the individual’s home, not another destination like a bar or party.

The Safe Ride Home program runs through New Year’s Day.

“As always, the Sheriff’s Office will be patrolling the roads during the holiday season with a zero tolerance for drunken driving,” said Sheriff Randy Smith. “The Safe Ride Home program is one more way we can help ensure a safe holiday for all of our residents. Call us if you have to, and a deputy will make sure you get home safely.”

Fundraising begins for food bank building

Northshore Food Bank has announced the launch of a capital campaign for its new building. The $3 million community investment, which will be located in downtown Covington around the corner from the existing food bank, will allow food bank staff and volunteers to expand operations.

“This is an exciting day for our organization and Washington and St. Tammany parishes as well,” said Terri Turner-Marse, CEO, Northshore Food Bank. “In the coming months, the food bank will work with the community at-large to raise funds so that we will have increased capacity and operational efficiency, making it an even more invaluable resource to hungry families on the north shore.”

The proposed 12,000-square-foot facility is forecast to open in late 2019. It will feature improved safety and traffic flow, additional space and an area for volunteers.

The project was designed and is being built by Kent Design Build. Renovations will be made to the existing food bank warehouse/dental building to accommodate the Resale Shop and Dental Center, while operations of the Food Bank will move to the new building, expanding the overall footprint of the organization.

For more information about the campaign, visit www.northshorefoodbank.org/fight or contact Jamie Andrepont, Northshore Food Bank Development Director at (985) 893-9958.

Wade elected to DPEC position

Marie Wade has been elected by the St. Tammany Democratic Party Executive Committee as the District 9 representative to the board.

Wade is an internal auditor for Churchill Downs, a CPA candidate and is pursuing a doctoral degree in analytical finance. Wade was elected unanimously to the committee by its members and then elected treasurer of the group to be effective Jan. 29.