Alpine will be the newest location for hospital employee housing.
St. John’s Medical Center closed last week on 5.79 acres in Lincoln County to help address staff recruitment and retention challenges anticipated as housing affordable to workers becomes more difficult to find in Teton County. The parcel cost $1.35 million, including a $250,000 credit toward water and sewer hookup fees.
Some 80 units are expected to be built, with the number, type and timing yet to be determined. The parcel is located in Alpine Meadows, approximately 36 miles south of Jackson on the north end of Alpine at the junction of Highway 89 and 26. The parcel includes five lots that the Alpine Meadows Architectural Review Committee approved for multifamily housing.
CEO Paul Beaupre said the purchase is making him worry less about the future of the hospital from a staffing perspective.
“As we project our future staffing needs based on age and retirement, it is clear that the individuals who will fill future open positions will be far less able to afford local housing due to escalating rent and home ownership costs,” he said in a press release. “This project will greatly alleviate my concerns about being able to staff St. John’s for the next decade and beyond.”
St. John’s currently owns 57 long-term and eight on-call units in Teton County for staff. The hospital also owns and maintains 14 units for patients and their families.
While funding for the purchase is planned to come from the hospital’s cash reserves, which fluctuate between $55 million and $60 million, there’s the potential for it to be offset by the sale of other real estate owned by St. John’s.
Cynthia Hogan, chairwoman of the hospital’s board of trustees, estimated the project could take three or more years to come to fruition but said she was “delighted that it will provide critically needed options for many of our current employees who face considerable difficulty finding and keeping stable, quality housing for themselves and their families.”
Staff said they’re already working to address transportation between the new Alpine neighborhood and Jackson. One step is collaborating with START to improve public transportation.
About 63 percent of St. John’s workforce lives in Teton County. As of October, about 12 percent of the workforce resided in the Alpine and Star Valley area — approximately 90 employees.
“When we talk to our employees, we regularly hear that convenient, reliable transportation makes out-of-county housing a much more appealing option,” Human Resources Director Thom Kinney said in the release.
Chief Information Officer Karen Connelly said the hospital continues to be interested in Teton County land, too.
“It’s not either-or,” she said. “We’re actively continuing to look at options closer and working with community members to do that. We’re very interested in continuing to see what opportunities are available in Teton County because we will always have a need for some staff to live close to the hospital, but a lot of positions don’t need to live close to the hospital.”