GREENWICH, Conn. – A series of critical renovations at the Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Center in Greenwich got off to a ceremonial start Thursday after more than a decade of doubts about whether they would ever come to pass.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei and all of Greenwich's elected state officials were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony in front of a crowd of Nathaniel Witherell residents, employees and other town residents.
The 18-month project to completely overhaul the 81-year-old building was approved in December 2011 by the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting.
The first proposals for the project came about in 2002 but were voted down time after time. The cost slowly decreased from the initial $45 million proposal to a $38 million plan as recent as 2010 to the final $24 million project that was approved.
David Ormsby, chairman of the Nathaniel Witherell board of directors, said he was thankful for the board's consistent support for the project since he came on as chairman in 2004.
"It takes a village," Ormsby quipped. "We've been at it since I came on and gradually reduced its cost and scope. But it still will permit us to keep the 220 beds we're licensed for. Our staff can't wait for the project to get beyond the festivities and into the real reconstruction."
Tesei thanked Malloy for taking part in the groundbreaking. Malloy, a Stamford native who has family in Greenwich, mentioned that his mother's best friend is a resident of The Nathaniel Witherell.
"This is a step forward for a project that's gone through a long and circuitous road," Tesei said. "It seemed that perhaps it wasn't going to happen. But people persevered, did the hard work and built support in understanding the value of the project."
Minor construction is already under way with the first major step in the project scheduled to begin in March. Renovations are scheduled to be completed by June 2014 .