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Samaritan wants city land for long-term care facility

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Samaritan Medical center officials want to purchase about 4.5 to five acres off outer Washington Street from the city that would be used for its $46.6 million long-term care facility.
Samaritan officials met for about an hour Monday night with the Watertown City Council and other city officials to talk about the potential land deal that would give the medical center more space to develop the 288-bed assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility.
They wanted to see if the city would be willing to sell the land-locked property. No action was taken Monday night, but council members discussed at length whether the city should hire an appraiser to determine its worth.
Samaritan has also been talking with the school district about acquiring 23 acres, 15 of which are in the city and the remainder in the town, for the assisted-living project. It owns about 13 acres now at the site.
City Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns suggested that the city and the Watertown city school district use the same appraiser because it would cut down on costs.
“I would like an appraiser to come in and determine the price for this parcel on the open market,” she told the other council members.
The land is located directly behind Samaritan Medical Plaza, 1575 Washington St.
If both properties are obtained, the medical center would change the configuration of its plans for the new facility and “spread it out a bit,” said Peter S. Clough, director of project and construction management for Bernier, Carr & Associates.
The project as proposed includes four residential buildings and community/administrative building, but that could change if all the land is acquired, he said. Plans also call for constructing a seprate entrance and exit for the facility, Samaritan officials said.
A part of the city-owned parcel was recently annexed by the city from the town. However, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said the annexation had been in the works for years and long before Samaritan became interested in the property, adding that they were not connected.
He acknowledged that it would make it easier for Samaritan to go through one planning board process, rather than site plan approvals for the city and the town. He noted that Summit Wood apartments had to go through both approvals when it was built a couple years along the city-town border.
Bernier, Carr is working on the project as construction and project manager. A Buffalo firm, which specializes in long-term facilities, has been hired to design the facility, Mr. Clough said. Samaritan officials hope to submit a certificate of need to the state by mid-February, with site work planned to begin next July.
The actual construction would start in September, with the hopes of the facility opening in November 2012.

In October, Samaritan was awarded a $34 million Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers, or HEAL NY grant, to help finance construction of the facility.

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