NEWPORT — County Commissioners want to move forward with an updated renovation plan for the Sullivan County Health Care nursing home in Unity, but at nearly double the original $18 million project cost estimate.
At a meeting on Aug. 5, the three commissioners agreed that the project, at $35 million, could be a tough sell to the county delegation.
“I just want to be smart about how we spend county money. It’s a great concept, but if the (political) will isn’t there” the project may falter, BOC Chairman Jeff Barrette said.
On Aug. 5, SCHC Facilities Director Mary Bourque presented county commissioners with an updated conceptual renovation plan currently in an early schematic design.
Bourque said the plan calls for a “significant scope change” that takes into account new goals in nursing home care, as well as recent changes in state regulations that made an earlier 2016 conceptual design non-compliant. Bourque said changes in the “complexity” of the original project, permit issues, as well as “struggling to meet new deadlines” by a consultant further complicated the project, adding to costs. The original project also had “little, if any, site work,” done, including a smaller footprint, she said.
Warrenstreet Architects of Concord, the project designer, is also requesting a revised 5% fee in light of these changes.
Bourque said the fee is “in the ballpark for what would be deemed fair for a project like this.”
“The building is long overdue in terms of maintenance and deferred maintenance,” said Bourque, adding that maintenance costs have been increasing by 10% annually for the past five years.
At the meeting, the BOC authorized the facilities director to purchase a replacement heat exchanger for the nursing home at a cost not to exceed $17,105.
The existing heat exchanger, built in 1976, and rebuilt in 2004, shows signs of significant corrosion and is no longer able to provide heat to the nursing home.
Bourque said the failing equipment is but another example of ongoing maintenance requirements.
The plan calls for nursing home renovations and the demolition and replacement of the Stearns building, built in 1970.
The nursing home is a licensed 156-bed facility comprised of three building sections. The original Sanders building was built in 1931, and the McConnell wing in 1997.
Bourque recommended a joint meeting with the BOC and county delegation to discuss recent changes in project design and costs.
“I don’t have a good sense on (the delegation position) one way or the other, to be honest with you,” Barrette said. “I think we can do a good job” presenting a case. “It’s showing how much it’s going to cost and how it’s a pill we can swallow.”
BOC member George Hebert said his sense of delegation support for the amended plan is that it’s a “real mixed bag. They could go one way or the other.”