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Highmark asks Monroeville to delay vote on ambulatory surgery center to produce more documentation

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Highmark Inc. wants Monroeville to table until further notice a plan to build an ambulatory surgery center.

A spokesman for the insurance company said the request is not related to its legal battle with West Penn Allegheny Health System.

As part of Highmark's plan to create a $1 billion health system to compete with UPMC, the region's dominant hospital system, Highmark had proposed building medical malls and outpatient centers with help from West Penn.

Highmark made the request because it needs more time to provide documentation to Monroeville, said Aaron Billger, a spokesman for the Downtown-based insurance company. “And we continue to move forward with our integrated delivery system development,” he said.

On Tuesday, Monroeville Council is scheduled to vote on the site plan for Highmark's ambulatory surgery center at 4121 Monroeville Blvd. But in a letter this week, David Mickey of Downtown-based Astorino, Highmark's architectural firm, requested that the vote be tabled until further notice.

The request was made because there has been a small design change in the plan that would require additional review by Monroeville, said Billger. The request has nothing to do with Highmark's battle with West Penn, he said.

In the past year, Highmark has spent more than $32 million buying properties in Pine, Monroeville, Cranberry, Ross and South Strabane through shell companies. It so far has submitted public descriptions of its plans to Pine and Monroeville.

In November, West Penn Allegheny and Highmark reached a deal for Highmark to buy the troubled hospital system for $475 million.

Last week, West Penn dissolved that deal, claiming that Highmark violated the agreement by demanding that West Penn file bankruptcy to restructure about $1 billion in debt.

On Monday, Highmark sued West Penn Allegheny to stop the system from entering talks with other potential acquirers. Highmark denies it required a bankruptcy filing.

On Tuesday, Monroeville Council will hold a public hearing on the request to table its vote, said Mark Ciufo, zoning and code enforcement officer. If it decides to table the vote until next month, council will hold another public hearing on the site plan, and it must render a decision within 60 days of the public hearing, Ciufo said.

Highmark can request to continue to have the application tabled in successive months, but Monroeville has the option of asking the company to withdraw its application, he said.

Highmark wants to add 1,930 square feet and renovate 3,618 square feet on an existing building, which will be 44,477 square feet at completion, according to its plan submitted to Monroeville. The surgery center would occupy 22,000 square feet on the southern end of the building, and the rest of the building could be left for a future development.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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