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Washington Summit partners donate 18 acres for SMC project

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Washington Summit partners Michael E. Lundy and Dr. David P. Rechlin could think of only one way to entice Samaritan Medical Center officials to select Washington Summit as the location for the hospital’s new senior-care complex: donate land.

All parties came together Wednesday at Samaritan Keep Home, Pratt Street, to announce that Mr. Lundy and Dr. Rechlin donated 18 acres of property they own on outer Washington Street to Samaritan for the 288-bed assisted-living and skilled-nursing project.

“We had kind of talked about what it’d take to get them up there,” Mr. Lundy said. “I talked with Dave and, quite frankly, we didn’t want them to go anywhere else.”

The appraised value of the property exceeds $500,000. Samaritan CEO Thomas H. Carman said taking that financial burden away from the hospital frees money to include other perks.

“That makes a big difference and allows us to put more into the project,” Mr. Carman said.

The Washington Summit location was the second site chosen for the project after wetlands were discovered on the first site, just down the road. Mr. Carman said it would have taken the Army Corps of Engineers another few months before concluding whether the 2.5-acre site was jurisdictional. Samaritan couldn’t afford to wait that long, he said.

Last fall, Samaritan was awarded a $34 million Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers grant to help pay for the assisted-living facility. About $25 million would go toward the construction of the Samaritan project and $9 million for the construction of an assisted-living facility in Carthage. The total cost of Samaritan’s Senior Village Complex will be $72 million.

Mr. Carman said he hoped the construction would have begun by now, but the wetlands issue delayed site work and initial foundation work until next month.

Samaritan has been working under a tight timeline because it has to spend the money by October 2012, and its receivership agreement with Mercy Care Center of Northern New York is scheduled to end then, as well. The delay pushes the construction back two months, Mr. Carman said, so he is working with the state Department of Health and GE Capital, which holds Mercy’s mortgage, for two-month extensions on agreements.

“We don’t expect any issues with that,” he said. “We’ve been given verbal commitment this is OK.”

While Mr. Carman expressed his gratitude to the Washington Summit partners for the land donation, Mr. Lundy returned the praise to Samaritan.

“We couldn’t have had the growth we’ve had without Samaritan’s support,” he said. “We really felt this project would fit in perfectly with Washington Summit. Quite frankly, we’re very happy to be in the position to give something back. I believe its a win-win for all of us. We’re looking forward to getting this in the ground.”

The property he owns there stretches a total of 52 acres.

Mr. Carman said that there are no wetlands on the 18-acre site that he is aware of, and that he does not anticipate any other issues with construction.

Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, is the project manager, and RLPS Architects, Lancaster, Pa., is the design firm. Purcell Construction, Watertown, and Lecesse Construction, West Henrietta, are the contractors.

Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said hospital administrators have been busy working to get a new site for the project in order, so she is unsure what will happen to the land purchase agreements for the old property. Samaritan owns a 13-acre tract of land adjacent to the 22.3-acre parcel that the Watertown City School District sold to Samaritan on April 26. The Watertown City Council also sold an adjacent nearly 6-acre parcel for Samaritan to have enough space to build the project and for its future growth.

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