Committee seeks backing for $27M nursing home offset by state aid
HUDSON–With their thoughts set on the future–25 years or more ahead, in fact–members of the Pine Haven Committee of the county Board of Supervisors agreed this week that residents and taxpayers will be best served if the county builds a new skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Philmont near the Pine Haven nursing home.
The new facility, estimated to cost $27 million, would be built on the 54-acre parcel at the east side of the village, which the county already owns. It would replace Pine Haven, the 120-bed home the county now operates on that land.
Since last March a subcommittee has been looking into options for replacing Pine Haven, which has no private rooms and other drawbacks compared to more modern facilities. The steps taken by the subcommittee were outlined in a nine-page memo circulated to members of the full committee Tuesday evening, September 15. The memo was written by David Robinson, the county commissioner of Public Works, and remains only a draft, but members of the committee voted unanimously based on the subcommittee’s findings to recommend that the full Board of Supervisors formally approve the concept of constructing a new county nursing facility.
The bi-partisan recommendation marks a major shift in the approach county leaders suggested last winter, when board Chairman Art Baer (R-Hillsdale) announced that officials were exploring the possibility of closing Pine Haven and leasing a new skilled nursing facility proposed for Valatie by a private developer. That led to an outcry in Philmont, where Pine Haven is the largest employer, and rankled some in Valatie, where questions were raised about the ability of the village infrastructure to handle a facility as large as the private developer, Ron DeVito, proposed.
One Philmont resident, Albert Wassenhove, appeared at Town and Village Board meetings and other events around the county to drum up support for keeping Pine Haven open in Philmont.
After Tuesday’s committee meeting, Claverack town Supervisor James Keegan said he was “ecstatic” about the recommendation to proceed with a new skilled nursing facility in Philmont, saying it was a good decision for the village, for the town and for Hudson, where 70 Pine Haven workers live.
In a press release issued last week, Mr. Baer said that because of state funding reimbursement programs, the new $27-million facility would actually cost taxpayers $6 million spread out over 25 years, which he called “clearly a win/win situation for the county.”
The Pine Haven subcommittee considered seven different options for the aging home, ranging from doing nothing to selling the home to a private operator. The subcommittee also looked into upgrading the existing home. Members visited at least four other facilities, including the new Firemen’s Home in Hudson, two in Ulster County and The Eddys in the Capital District, and they met with a state official and with a private sector architect whose firm builds nursing facilities.
Subcommittee members who made the site visits were impressed with what they had seen, with Mr. Keegan recalling the architect’s statement that current nursing facility designs call for “taking away the institution and replacing it with a home.”
Subcommittee members told their colleagues that the question boiled down to whether it was better for the county to lease a building or build one. In the end that decision hinged on the question of what would happen when the lease expires after 25 years.
Committee Chairman Larry Andrews (R-Ghent) said that when the lease ends the county would have little choice but to purchase what would then be an aging facility after having paid the expenses for the building over the intervening years. He said the potential savings from a lease deal were difficult to pin down but did not appear to be large enough to outweigh the advantage of owning the building from the outset. “We felt it’s best to be in control of our own destiny,” said Mr. Andrews.
Other subcommittee members said they did not want to saddle a future county Board of Supervisors with the necessity of buying a leased building.
Once the full board approves the committee’s recommendation, a step that now appears likely, county officials can then seek approval for a certificate of need from the state. Pine Hill Administrator Art Proper said that applying for the certificate involved mountains of paperwork and might take as long as a year. Even with the certificate in hand, the county can choose when to proceed with construction.
The new skilled nursing home would most likely be built on what is called Parcel C, with access from Martindale Road rather than state Route 217. It would have between 120 to 128 rooms and would provide skilled nursing and rehabilitation services, although Mr. Andrews said there might be “other services” in the future along the lines of those the subcommittee members saw at the facilities they visited.
Pine Haven is now at 95% of capacity, said Mr. Proper.
The committee did not discuss what would happen to the existing nursing home.