State approves plans for new county nursing facility

PHILMONT–Columbia County received news this week that the state Department of Health has given its approval for construction of a new, $32-million skilled nursing facility to replace the four-decades-old Pine Haven Nursing Home. The new facility which, like Pine Haven, would be owned and operated by the county, will have 128 beds, four more than Pine Haven and could be ready for occupancy by the fall of 2015.

Pine Haven Administrator Arhtur Proper said this week that with interest the new skilled nursing facility could cost as much as $44 million. But the state will reimburse the county at a rate of $239,000 per bed, which comes to over $30 million, and will also cover 85% of interest expenses.

“It’s a really good deal” for the county, said Mr. Proper. He said repayment of loans for the project spread out over decades would minimize the impact on taxpayers.

Planning for the new facility began in earnest in 2008, but quickly became controversial when county leaders at the time suggested relocating the facility in Valatie. Once the county determined it had space at the current site, the project moved forward.

Pine Haven currently employs about 175 people and operates with a $13-million annual budget. But Mr. Proper said that for the last two years, “We have not requested any subsidy from taxpayers.”

He said the new facility was needed to keep the home competitive with other facilities, offering the types of amenities that residents expect. Columbia County has one of the oldest populations in the state.

Mr. Proper was not the only person clearly pleased by the state’s green light for the new facility. Local resident Albert Wassenhove, who initiated and led the grassroots effort that kept Pine Haven in the Village of Philmont, said the news thrilled him because it clears the way for his proposal to turn the old Pine Haven into a county Veterans Care Resource Center once the new skilled nursing facility opens.

Mr. Wassenhove, who praised the work of Chelsea Nichols, who created designs for the interior of a veterans center, and others who have contributed to the project, said there was now more work to be done to turn the vision for the center into reality, starting with the creation of a new, non-profit entity.


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