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Lewis legislators authorize borrowing for hospital dialysis project


LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators have authorized borrowing of $700,000 to help fund the ongoing dialysis project at the municipal hospital.

Lawmakers last week voted 10-0 to move forward with the bonding to cover non-grant-funded costs of the $1.9 million project. They also declared that the project will have no significant environmental impact under the state Environmental Quality Review process.

Legislative Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, said county officials decided to borrow money for the balance of the costs, rather than pulling it from county fund balance, to ensure the project doesn’t tax county reserves too heavily. “We were just wondering about the best way to protect our interests,” he said.

The plan is to roll the dialysis funding in with money being borrowed by the hospital to upgrade its Meditech information management system and remaining debt on a $1.6 million Beaver Falls clinic project completed several years ago, according to County Treasurer Patricia L. O’Brien. The total amount — roughly $5 million — is to be paid off in eight years, with the interest rate expected to be about 1.75 percent, she said.

The long-awaited dialysis project is to be funded primarily by a $904,837 state Department of Health commissioner’s discretionary grant and a $300,000 Empire State Development grant.

The Lewis County Hospital Foundation also collected about $100,000 for dialysis through various fundraisers, and annual lease payments of $123,000 from DaVita Inc. over a 10-year period would be used to cover any remaining debt service.

A 7,200-square-foot addition is being built off the west side of the Medical Arts Building’s first floor and basement to accommodate the dialysis center. Roughly 1,000 square feet of adjoining space in the Medical Arts Building also will be renovated and included in the dialysis suite.

The addition will accommodate an eight-station outpatient clinic with a full basement and feature a new entrance into the main lobby area.

After the addition is built, the hospital will turn it over to DaVita Inc., which is to complete additional interior work, then operate the center under the lease agreement. The pact also includes reimbursement for maintenance and housekeeping services, electricity, heating and water and sewer services.

Plans are to complete the shell building by October, with interior finish work and installation of dialysis equipment to be completed by February. That would allow the new center to open in March or April.

General contractor Northern Tier Contracting, Gouverneur, began preliminary site work in mid-May and is doing foundation work, according to hospital officials.

Work on the project, designed by Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, has led to temporary closure of the main lobby entrance. In the interim, hospital plant operations workers have used golf carts to help transport patients around the North State Street campus, and volunteers from the hospital auxiliary have staffed a table in the lobby to hand out exit directions and help point people in the right direction.

The planned center would provide a local treatment option for Lewis County residents who now must travel to Watertown or Utica to receive dialysis. Up to 30 dialysis patients in Lewis County typically undergo four-hour treatments three days a week.

Anyone interested in learning more about the proposed center or being added to a waiting list to visit the facility as its opening nears can call DaVita at 414-7002.

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