Tarlton Completes Missouri’s First COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility

Hotel converted in less than 100 hours to support hospitals in case more beds are needed

ST. LOUIS (April 14, 2020) – The design-build team of Tarlton Corp., a St. Louis-based general contracting and construction management firm, working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, completed conversion April 11 of a Florissant, Missouri, hotel into an alternate health care facility to treat non-acute COVID-19 patients. The facility, if needed, would serve as backup for patients referred by St. Louis-area hospitals and would be staffed by members of the Missouri National Guard.

More than 100 employees from the design-build team, including 50 from Tarlton, worked on site at the Quality Inn from April 8 to 11 to help USACE complete its mission in less than 100 hours. The team comprised Tarlton as design-build contractor, Ross & Baruzzini (architectural and engineering services), Rock Hill Mechanical Corp. and Guarantee Electrical Co. 

Subcontractors working on the conversion included C&R Mechanical’s Plumbing Division, Collins & Hermann, Dynamic Air Solutions, Flooring Systems Inc., Jos. Ward Painting Co., Midwest Elevator, Stanley Steemer, Tech Electronics, Waterhout Construction, and Woodard Cleaning and Restoration.

“I’m proud of the quick and thorough response our team put together and executed,” said Tracy Hart, president of Tarlton. “We feel honored to be trusted by the Army Corps of Engineers for this critical project that is so important to our community.”

The project yielded more than 100 patient rooms on the four floors of the 130-room hotel. The team built a nurses’ station on each floor and turned the existing phone system into a nurse call system. Beds and furniture were moved, with extra furniture put in temporary storage; PTAC units in rooms were inspected and repaired or replaced as necessary; hardware was changed on hotel room doors and bathroom doors to disable locks; and all rooms were deep cleaned. In 13 rooms, carpet was removed and walls and ceilings were painted.

Project scope also included steps to ensure proper ventilation for a patient care facility: inspection and cleaning of HVAC units; relocation of exhaust fans within 25 feet of HVAC intakes; extension of plumbing vents within 25 feet of HVAC intakes; and construction of isolation barriers in the corridors (three per floor) to separate the elevator/nurse station areas from the three patient wings.

“I am so proud of our group,” said Becky Mehaffy, Tarlton workforce manager. “They jumped right in there with the single goal to get it done safely and on time. I’ve seen a lot in my years in this industry – never anything like this. I can’t say enough about all the people who came together on this project.”

Dirk Elsperman, Tarlton chief operating officer, explained: “This assignment came hours after we lost Bob Elsperman to COVID-19 (Robert Elsperman, Dirk and Tracy’s father, led Tarlton from 1972 to 1999). It turned into a therapeutic project for the entire Tarlton family. Our team collaborated with the Army Corps as the scope of work evolved throughout the 4.5 days of transforming a hotel into a temporary care facility we hope will not be needed.    

“Our design-build partners, subcontractors and consultants were critical to the project’s success,” Elsperman continued. “Everyone brought ideas and the will to succeed – a strong commitment to the 12:01 a.m. Sunday turnover. The Corps chose Tarlton for a reason, and we were not going to let them down.

“The Big Guy loved how the toughest projects brought people together,” Elsperman added in reference to his father. “This alternate care facility did just that. We are grateful for the opportunity to help the St. Louis community in this very difficult time.”

Tarlton’s partners on the project agreed. “We are proud to have contributed to the Tarlton team on this meaningful project to aid in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic in the St. Louis region. It was an extraordinary integrated design-build effort,” said Michael Shea, AIA, Ross & Baruzzini senior vice president/director of government.

Guarantee Electrical President Dave Gralike added: “Guarantee is honored to assist in whatever way we can during these extraordinary times. We are especially proud of our team and all the contractors and tradespeople involved in this quick turnaround project.”

Government, health and hospital officials toured the facility at 55 Dunn Road over the weekend and Monday morning, when recognition was given to all by USACE Maj. Gen. R. Mark Toy. State agencies involved include the Missouri National Guard, Department of Public Safety, State Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health and Senior Services, Office of Administration and the Missouri Hospital Association, all in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It would be impossible to name everyone who contributed to this project,” noted John Doerr, P.E., Tarlton executive vice president, “but several were at the forefront, directly supporting our team of men and women working in the field. Joe Scarfino was our on-site team leader, with leadership from Cameron Denison at night. Project Superintendents Jeff Damlow and Ron Cicchese were invaluable in their supervisory roles.

“Becky Mehaffy was a tireless leader in coordinating the field staff to meet an aggressive deadline. Our safety team of Ryan Wehrle, Andy Everding and Patrick Bourn made sure we maintained a safe jobsite in unprecedented circumstances.          

“Bringing their expertise to the brief and intense preconstruction and into construction completion were Jason Bretz, Andy Kovarik, Tom Kramer, Kevin Oakley and Scott Green. Helping push the project to the finish line were Sarah Mangapora, Andy Picha, Tyler Elder, Diane Grimsley, Alex Brown, Brian Julius and others who knew they could make a difference.” 

On March 30, Bob Elsperman, 83, was admitted to a St. Louis-area hospital with COVID-like symptoms. He died of COVID complications eight days later. The industry stalwart’s construction career spanned nearly 70 years, and he led by example through service to his family, company, industry and country. Elsperman spent his summers as a teenager learning carpentry at Tarlton and graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Purdue University, where he was in the Navy ROTC program. While working for Tarlton in the 1960s, he served eight years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of captain.