City, Affinity still finalizing deal, as Massillon Police officials say they'll eventually increase patrols at property.

MASSILLON  City police have started patrolling the grounds of the former Affinity Medical Center, not long after the facility closed late Sunday.

Police Chief Keith Moser said an increased police presence is likely in the near future, after the city formally takes control of the hospital property and when the security company on site exits the premises for good.

"Right now, we're driving up and around the buildings, but not doing any (interior) walk-throughs," the chief said Monday night during a City Council work session.

Monday was the first day the city had been without a hospital since 1910. Affinity officially closed its doors at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, with only a skeleton crew scheduled to return to the hospital to perform an inventory of supplies, equipment and medication.

According to Safety-Service Director Joel Smith, discussions with police about monitoring the hospital property and assets have been ongoing for some time. Once an agreement is finalized for the city to take control of the hospital buildings and property, police will further ramp up a presence along Eighth Street NE and Amherst Road NE.

The city also could decide to keep some Affinity employees on the payroll at least for a while, Smith said. One or two employees might be needed to monitor the facility's boiler system.

"There's nothing in place. It's something we're looking at," Smith said.

Deal not done

The city has yet to formally acquire the Affinity assets nearly two weeks after reaching a consensus.

A legal settlement was reached Feb. 1 between Massillon and Affinity, in which the city is in line to acquire more than $25 million worth of property and medical equipment with the intention of reopening the site as a medical center.

However, specific language involving the deal is still being finalized and has not been signed, according to David Maley, the city's economic development director, who said Monday there is no timetable for a final agreement.

Maley and Smith said the city is talking almost daily to unspecified "in- and out-of-state" parties who have shown an interest in operating a medical facility long term in Massillon.

"We've talked with groups who've expressed interest, but nothing has been signed on the dotted line," Smith said.

The city's intent is to have a fully operational hospital; however, it could be slightly smaller facility than the 140 beds that Affinity utilized, Smith said.

Job assistance available

Former workers at Affinity Medical Center appear to be finding employment elsewhere through networking opportunities and utilizing existing ties in the medical community, according to an OhioMeansJobs representative.

"We've seen that many have already found other work once Affinity announced (Jan. 5) it was closing," said Shannon McClay, a resource room specialist with OhioMeansJobs of Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

On Monday, the Massillon Public Library hosted an employment workshop — sponsored by OhioMeansJobs — aimed at helping former Affinity workers find new jobs. One session hosted by McClay assisted employees with a personality test, how to search for occupations that match individual strengths, and gave tips on how to fill out unemployment forms.

Other related job-search events are slated the remainder of the week and next week at the library. See box for details.

McClay said the current job market seems to be favoring employees, as numerous opportunities are available locally in nursing and other medical fields.

Reach Steven at 330-775-1134 or at steven.grazier@indeonline.com.
On Twitter: @sgrazierINDE