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The earth finally moved

Groundbreaking ceremony kicks off new nursing home construction project

CARROLL COUNTY officials don hardhats and grip shovels at the groundbreaking of the new county nursing home on Monday, April 19. From left to right: Mountain View Nursing Home Administrator Sandi McKenzie, Commissioner Chip Albee, Commission Chair David Sorensen, Commissioner Dorothy Solomon, and Delegation Chair Betsey Patten. Daymond Steer - Staff. (click for larger version)
April 22, 2010
OSSIPEE — Carroll County officials celebrated the groundbreaking for the new county nursing home in front of a crowd of well over 100 people on Monday afternoon on the lawn of Mountain View Nursing Home.

Although the new facility will be located closer to the county complex, the groundbreaking ceremony occurred in a large tent outside the current nursing home in order to make it easier for Mountain View residents to attend. Seventy-one people registered for the groundbreaking but far more attended so a number of people watched from outside the tent.

"It's a special occasion today in the History of Carroll County and in particular Mountain View Nursing Home," said County Commission Chair David Sorensen. "It's been 40 years since we've had a new building for the nursing home and it's about time to have a new one."

While officials spoke, earthmoving equipment rumbled in the construction site, adjacent to the county complex on Water Village Road.

Sorensen explained that the new home is expected to be complete in July of 2011. Like the current facility, the new home will have 103 beds, but at 85,000 square feet it will be twice as large as Mountain View.

The genesis of this project goes back 10 to 20 years, said Sorensen. Back then, the question was should the county build a new home or an addition to Mountain View.

But the project never went anywhere for lack of support from a majority of previous boards of county commissioners. Finally in 2007, state surveys determined that there were "many deficiencies" at Mountain View. Those deficiencies included roof leaks, too narrow corridors, and the fact that four residents must share a bathroom.

"It was a disaster," said Sorensen. "The state almost shut us down."

After that, the commission spent thousands of dollars to mitigate the deficiencies — but the following year another survey showed that the nursing home still didn't meet state standards and the elderly population would increase by 22 percent over the next few year. At that time, Sorensen and then commissioners Marge Webster and Peter Olkkola voted to support building a new nursing home. Sorensen described Olkkola, who has since passed away, as a "tremendous supporter" of the nursing home.

"I think Peter would be very pleased to know a new nursing home is being built," said Sorensen who added Webster was out of state awaiting the birth of a new grandchild.

In December of 2009, the county delegation, made up of 14 state reps, voted to approve the county commission's request to build a new nursing home for $23.5 million. Sorensen acknowledged that the decision to approve the new home was tough to make in this economy. Sorensen also acknowledged the residents who opposed the project.

"We still live in the United States and we still have the freedom of speech," said Sorensen. "I appreciate their concerns."

Next, Commissioner Dorothy Solomon explained the design concept of the new nursing home will be completely different than Mountain View, which has long hospital-like corridors and double rooms. At the new Mountain View, most of the rooms will be private, although there will be double rooms for married couples. Each bedroom will have its own bathroom. Groups of about 10 rooms will be clustered into areas called households— each household will have its own kitchen, dining room, living room, and activity center. The new layout is designed to be efficient and home-like, she said.

"The marvelous staff at Mountain View will be able to devote more time to serving the needs of residents in this new environment," said Solomon. "They will also have a building that reflects the newest and most energy efficient resources available to make their work easier and save the county money."

Commissioner Chip Albee got a laugh when he told the audience that earlier that morning some patrons at a local coffee shop said they thought the groundbreaking had come easily.

But in fact, those involved in the process were faced with "impossible goals" while the economy of the nation was collapsing. The 15-member building committee decided to ask the architects to build a $50 million nursing home for under $25 million. Construction Manager Bonnett Page and Stone, of Laconia, had to price the project for even less. The Mountain View's Administrator Sandi McKenzie was asked to maintain the much larger building with the same number of staff.

"It was a bipartisan effort," said Albee. "It was really driven by the notion that we're going to do something not to get re-elected but because we were elected — our delegates stood up and did the right thing."

Delegation Chair Betsey Patten (R-Moultonborough) said she felt good that the county will have a "dignified home for the residents, a cheerful working place for the staff, and a good place for families to visit."

Governor John Lynch couldn't attend in person, so he sent a letter, which was read by Solomon. U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter both sent spokespeople.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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