MUNSTER | Construction at Community Hospital reached a sky-high milestone Friday as workers completed the tallest point of a new tower.
As part of the "topping out" ceremony, an orange crane hoisted a bucket of concrete, along with an American flag and a banner signed by construction workers and hospital staff.
"Today, we're at the top of the structure," said Michael Whelan, president of the building division of Walsh Construction, general contractor for the project. "We're far from done."
A small group gathered in the west parking lot to watch the ceremony.
"It's something that we do as tradition," Whelan said.
The ceremony has Scandanavian roots, as workers would hoist a tree to the top of a structure to symbolize growth and future.
"This is a milestone we have reached on time and on budget," said Community Hospital CEO Donald Fesko.
Community Hospital is undergoing a $33 million expansion.
The multi-phase project will add private rooms, double the capacity of the neonatal intensive care unit, expand the main surgical services area and provide advanced technology and accommodations to care for more stroke and heart patients.
The phase underway, which will add four stories above the existing emergency department pavilion, is expected to finish in May, Fesko said.
On average, 70 tradespeople are on site daily. About half of them are local workers, Whelan said.
Aside from commemorating the physical pinnacle, the topping out ceremony celebrates safety, he said.
Safety is key to all construction projects, and this site has been free of accidents, he said.
Fesko complimented Walsh workers who sprung into their safety plan when a June 24 storm brought strong winds to the area.
They immediately returned to the hospital and secured the site, he said.
"You can tell they practice safety drills regularly," he said. "They have a well-coordinated plan."