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Carthage Area Hospital turns to state, county to fill in funding gap on assisted living project

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WEST CARTHAGE — Carthage Area Hospital broke ground on its $9.5 million, 60-bed assisted living center in mid-October, but doesn’t have the money to continue with construction on its own.

Dale A. Klock, Meadowbrook board president, said in an email Thursday that the project has never been turned down for financing, but is “working with one financial institution and should have financing in place shortly.”

He also said the board is trying to put several options together and other sources say project officials are talking to state and county government on different financial packages.

The Carthage project is one of two sharing a $34 million Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers grant. The grant will cover part of the cost for Samaritan Medical Center’s 288-bed assisted-living and skilled nursing facility behind Washington Summit, Washington Street, Watertown, and contribute $9 million to Meadowbrook Terrace, Cole Street. Carthage Area Hospital put up the remaining $500,000 of the project cost.

“The problem is partially with the state,” said Jefferson County Legislator James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium. “Reimbursement is normally five or six weeks, but now it’s 10 weeks to reimbursement.”

Mr. Nabywaniec is chairman of the county’s Health and Human Services Committee and is also a board member for Meadowbrook Terrace, but would speak only based on county information.

“About 10 days ago, the county became aware that there could be an issue with the short-term line of credit,” he said. “We’re all partners in this and anything we can do to make sure we get what we need to, we’re here to do.”

The top option right now is a low-interest loan through the state’s Dormitory Authority, said Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River.

“For the hospital, it’s a great benefit because of the fact that the loan will not have to be paid back until after the project is over with,” he said. “It would be a low-interest loan of 1 percent and it would provide the cash flow to bridge the project until the HEAL grant money is given out.”

He said he heard this week the project needed $3 million, which the hospital is requesting. Mr. Blankenbush sent a letter Wednesday in support of the request through the Healthcare Reform and Restructuring Program.

“Meadowbrook will help address urgent needs for adult care in Jefferson County, as the Mercy nursing home in nearby Watertown is set to close and the Whispering Pines nursing home, also in Watertown, is at capacity with those in need of nursing care as well as those suitable for alternative levels of care,” he wrote to Larry Volk, senior director of portfolio management. “Many of the residents at Mercy and Whispering Pines will transition into the new facility once it is open.”

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said Dormitory Authority and Department of Health officials will meet Monday to discuss the application, a fact confirmed by a Dormitory Authority spokeswoman.

“I assured them that I am a strong supporter of the bridge loan,” she said. “They assured me that my support of the project would weigh heavily. It looks like there’s a definite possibility that it could happen.”

Mr. Blankenbush said he was told local representatives would hear within a week after the meeting.

“It’s a perfect example where the state could step in and help out to get this facility built that is much needed in Jefferson County,” he said. “This would be the perfect fit.”

If that doesn’t come through, the county Board of Legislators may step in. The board committed to giving $5 million to Samaritan for the assisted-living project, which normally would be partitioned out as the project is completed.

“We could front-load the money to Samaritan,” Mr. Nabywaniec said. “If it’s a possibility, with Samaritan administering the grant process, they’re already invoicing things right now for the Carthage side of the project.”

The county would speed the finalization of its contract with Samaritan, which would send the county money to Carthage, and then be reimbursed by the HEAL grant. But the boards of all the organizations must approve that arrangement first, if the state Department of Health will even allow it.

Krista A. Kittle, Samaritan spokeswoman, said staff at that hospital just learned of the situation Wednesday.

“We would need more information,” she said.

Meadowbrook Terrace features 48 322-square-foot studio apartments and 12 one-bedroom, 433-square-foot apartments, an ice cream parlor, a store, a lounge area, a common dining room and a small medical suite. There will be a main kitchen, laundry room, utility room, data room, activity room, chapel and employee work area in the K-shaped, one-level facility.

Services included will be activities of daily living such as cleaning living space and bathing; physical, occupational and speech therapies, and health and wellness programs.

“We have setbacks in any bid kind of operation,” Mr. Nabywaniec said. “We expect hitches along the way and we deal with them as they come. I think this is manageable and we can work through it.”

Times staff writer Brian Amaral contributed to this report.

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