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Greenwich Nursing Home Seeks $22.5M Revamp

Greenwich’s Nathaniel Witherell nursing home needs $22.5 million in structural overhauls to meet health and building codes and the needs of residents, says executive director Allen Brown.

“The place has to be made consistent with the expectations of our residents,” said Brown. “It’s basically a consumer service and we’re competing with other homes that offer more modern facilities. So there are basic issues we’ll have to address in the renovations.”

The home’s proposal was submitted for municipal improvement status at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting. The selectmen, Planning and Zoning Commission and Representative Town Meeting must all approve the project. The selectmen will announce their vote at the nursing home on Thursday, May 5.

Brown says the administration building, built in 1933, has no fire protection sprinklers, which does not meet state standards. One residential building, built in 1961, has 10 rooms with four beds. “It’s not a contemporary environment and people don’t like being in there, so it’s more difficult to keep these rooms occupied and satisfy people with those accommodations,” said Brown. The four bed rooms would be eliminated and the total number of private bedrooms would increase from 26 to 60. Double-occupancy rooms would increase from 136 to 142.

None of the three buildings has sufficient emergency generator capability. Public health codes require the facility to be able to replace 80 percent of its electricity. Now it can replace only 25 percent. Other issues addressed in the plan include heating and hot water system improvements, bathroom and nursing station revamps and an expanded rehabilitation area.

Brown would like the project to begin by the fall of 2012, and expects it to take 18-20 months, since the facility would remain open during the renovation.

Renovations have been requested for Nathaniel Witherell since 2002, when a $45.5 million project to replace each building was rejected. Another $37 million plan was rejected by the state because of its cost. The state has agreed to pay for 55 percent of the new project.

“We’re hopeful,” said Brown. “We do understand that the economic times have changed and there are different dynamics now. What we have to offer that’s different than improving other town facilities is we’re able to pay for this project, whereas with other facilities the taxpayers have to pay for it.”

The town would have to lend Witherell about $600,000 a year for the first three years of construction, after which the nursing home will reimburse the town for that advance and pay back any remaining costs of the project over the next 20 years.

What do you think of Nathaniel Witherell’s plans for renovation? Comment below.

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