"They (seismic engineers) might tell you to demolish the building," Lerma said. "There is a lot of potential here, but I am a little concerned about the condition of the building."
If the engineers deem the building safe enough for patients to occupy, Lerma said, Clinicas would concentrate on starting the "after-hours" center, with the possibility of offering daytime services like those offered at its Cole Road location in Calexico.
Daytime services could include mental-health counseling, child-care training and other services not dependent upon doctors. After-hours service would involve the presence of physicians.
Clinicas operates five health-care centers in the Imperial Valley and two in Riverside County. The agency is headquartered in Brawley.
The Heffernan district board chose Clinicas after listening to informal presentations from three medical-service providers: Clinicas, El Centro Regional Medical Center and Indio-based Dr. Leroy Brown.
Board attorney Eduardo Rivera complimented the board on its action and said the citizens of Calexico should be pleased with its decision.
"Now the time has come to find out what services can be offered at that building. You couldn't do it before, because of debt and litigation, but now that you have wiped the slate clean it is time to figure out, ‘Does it meet the state seismic standards?' and if it doesn't, ‘Does the city's Redevelopment Agency wish to participate in salvaging it?'" Rivera said.
Chairwoman Norma Apodaca said she voted for Clinicas because of their community ties.
Calexico residents serve on the Clinicas board of directors and Calexico City Councilman Javier Alatorre works with the organization in an advisory capacity.
"They would be able to help lobby the RDA for help," she said.
The RDA owns the Calexico Hospital building and leases it to the district for $1 a year. Calexico Hospital has been closed since late 1997.
Trustee Ray Falcon said he was impressed with the presentation from El Centro Regional.
"They have everything — resources, money, experience — to develop this hospital to the 'nth degree, but I don't feel they are for the people. I put them in second place," Falcon said.
Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org