Coaldale Borough Council on Tuesday unanimously approved St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital's $1.5 million state grant application that would help pay for a new operating room and recovery room.

The resolution, which does not in any way obligate the borough financially, allows the hospital to submit an application for funding to the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Hospital director of development Micah Gursky spoke with council before Tuesday's regular public meeting about the borough's role in the grant application, which is due in Harrisburg by Friday. The program requires local government approval of the application, he said.

Council had invited Gursky to speak because of concerns about whether, given the borough's tight budget, it would be prudent to become involved. Council plans to seek grants to repair the Coaldale Complex, and some council members wondered if the hospital's grant would hinder the borough's ability to obtain government funds.

Gursky said that it would not.

The new operating and recovery room, a $3 million project, would be built where the former intensive care unit was located. The hospital unveiled its new, $1.9 million ICU in September.

Gursky said that the hospital is asking for $1.5 million, it may not get that full amount. St. Luke's already has $535,000 in private donations, he said.

"We've seen a lot of support for the project," Gursky said. "The grant funding would certainly get us there a lot more quickly."

Gursky said the "goal of the project is to bring a state-of-the-art operating room and recovery room, and to use those facilities to attract the best and brightest surgeons and specialists to come here to Coaldale and take care of people."

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program is managed by the state Office of the Budget, and used to fund economic, civic, cultural, historic improvement projects. Due to the recent economic upheaval, the money will be prioritized for projects that create jobs, according to the program's website. Gov. Tom Corbett has the final say in which projects are selected, Gursky said.

Gursky also offered to help the borough find grants to repair the complex building, which is the former Coaldale High School. Council suggested that the hospital may, at some point, consider renting part of the building. The 88-year-old complex, at Sixth and Phillips streets, was built in 1922 as the borough high school. The borough acquired it in 1974, after the Panther Valley School District was formed, uniting high schools in Coaldale, Summit Hill, Nesquehoning and Lansford. It now houses the Pathstone Carbon County Head Start program.

The building's second floor has been damaged due to years of roof leaks, and engineers have estimated repair costs at $590,000. Council on Dec. 20 took back the operations and maintenance of its complex building from the commission that has been managing it since the 1980s.

In a related matter, council discussed how to best manage the building. Mayor Richard Corkery recommended putting Councilman David Yelito, who lives close to the complex, as director of operations of the building.

Solicitor Michael Greek advised creating a commission, whose five members would serve at council's will. Council would need to approve an ordinance to create the commission, which should include one council member, and define its duties and limitations, he said.