Passages' use for building still in planning process

COLUMBIA CITY — While the sale is still not final, preliminary plans are under way for use of the Lehmberg Building in Columbia City by Passages, Inc.The non-profit was named as buyer of the former hospital property at last week’s meeting of the Whitley County Board of Commissioners.Attorney Peter Mallers of Beers, Mallers, Backs and Salin of Fort Wayne appeared before the three-man board Feb. 7 and announced that the building, located at 333 North Oak Street and owned by Whitley Memorial Hospital, Inc., will be sold to Passages, Inc.Mallers said during the meeting that the bylaws of Whitley Memorial Hospital Inc. require the consent of the county commissioners before the sale of any of its real estate.Parkview Health Systems purchased Whitley Memorial Hospital in 1995, which had been a county-owned hospital prior to the purchase, according to Mallers.Passages, Inc. President Tom O’Neill said Thursday he expects to close on the building by the first week in March.“It (the Lehmberg Building) will be used to serve Passages, but to what extent is still a work in progress,” O’Neill said.As a result of the 1995 hospital sale, Whitley Memorial Hospital, Inc. was formed and the hospital deeded its properties to the newly-formed corporation.O’Neill said planners are helping create a vision for the building’s future.“We’re in the process right now,” he said. “In fact I met with an architectural firm this morning.“The building lends itself well for our purposes.”