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Future of the old nursing home remains in debate

July 07, 2011
OSSIPEE— After a four-hour meeting of the Carroll County Delegation June 27, at least one thing is clear. Nine of the 11 delegates present at the meeting are in favor of the "concept" of UNH Cooperative Extension, with representatives Laurie Pettengill and Norman Traganza voting against.

What is also clear as there are too many unanswered questions about the future of the old nursing home and that list keeps getting longer.

County commissioners took a beating at the meeting with one delegate being quite vocal about his allegations. Rep. Joseph Fleck said he asked the commissioners a couple months ago to have a detailed plan of their proposed use of the old nursing home. Several plans have been tossed around. Does the county keep the core section and tear down two of the wings or all four of the wings? Or does the entire building get torn down and moved away?

"Representative Fleck's request was specific and on target a month or two months ago. It was again brought up in the building committee. The commissioners acknowledged what it was he was looking for and the commission has not moved forward. I have not seen any information that tells me they are moving forward with an analysis of what makes sense that we build. Number One – shame on you…The commissioners continuously brings us a box filled with wishes and what could be. They keep telling us the cooperative extension needs a home. We need 3,000 square feet, we have 15,000. How much longer do we have to wait for the commissioners to actually understand the scope of what they are trying to do and bring answers to the delegation? I am stymied by the fact at how unprofessional the building plan is at this point and at what point the commissioners are going to come forward with a solid recommendation of what it is we are trying to do here and why we are even talking about more space," said Rep Mark McConkey.

The commissioners, led by Chairman David Sorensen, has long represented the hope that the core of the building would be renovated in whole or in part and that at least two wings will be kept for future county needs.

Sorensen thought the three commissioners were all in agreement going into the June 27 meeting that the core and two wings would be saved. But he was blindsided by Commissioner Asha Kenney, who told delegates she wants the whole thing torn down.

At the commissioner's meeting two days later, Sorensen called Kenney to task on the about-face. He said he made the statement to the delegation after the commissioners were all in agreement at the June 20 meeting that the core and two wings should be kept and that he didn't appreciate being blindsided by Kenney. "I don't like getting caught behind the back," he said. He also asked that anytime one of the commissioners changes their mind that it is only fair to him and to the taxpayers that he, as chairman, be made aware. Kenney accused Sorensen of not telling the whole truth and that she has never been in agreement with the other two commissioners regarding the future of the old home. Commissioner Dorothy Solomon challenged Kenney with, "There were no ifs, you agreed with us, recalling the same series of events and discussion as Sorensen. "I hope this doesn't happen again," said Sorensen.

Rep. David Babson asked Kenney what she would propose doing with the various uses already slated for the old home. About the laundry, Kenney said it was very poor planning not to include laundry facilities to wash resident's personal items in the new home. The same, she said is true for the maintenance department. As for the grant-supported installation of a pellet boiler system that is housed in the old home that supplies primary heat to the new nursing home, Kenney suggested building a new building to shelter these boilers. Randy Remick of Bonnet, Page and Stone which holds the construction contract for the new home told commissioners that about $50,000 worth of piping has already been run from the boilers in the old home, connecting the system to the new home. As for whether or not the UNH Cooperative Extension moving back to the county complex when their Conway Village lease runs out, Kenney said the county needs to find an alternative to moving the Extension to the county complex.

"If we are not going to use the nursing home as a historical landmark or site, we need to remove the old home," said Kenney.

Currently, there is $100,000 specifically set aside for demolition and removal of two wings of the old home. There is $8,000 left in the budget to come up with a plan and estimated cost of rehabilitating the nursing home to accommodate Extension, storage, the pellet boilers, laundry, and electrical room.

Effingham resident Maureen Spencer, who said she sat on the 30-plus member building committee for the new nursing home asked for clarification from commissioners. Her recollection was confirmed by Sorensen that during the planning of the new home, it was always the intention that the Extension, laundry, pellet furnaces and electrical room would be housed in the old home as a more cost effective solution than building space for these functions at the higher construction rate of the new home. "I am so tired of hearing we are going to cost the taxpayers. People have lost sight of the intent of this. Things are being misconstrued for whatever political reasons," she said.

At least one delegate is not in favor of moving the Extension back to Ossipee, Rep. Frank McCarthy, who said he is acting in the interest of the county taxpayers in the northern part of the county. "We don't get any services from the county except maybe the sheriff's department serving warrants," he said.

Remick agreed to take the feasibility study that has already been done on the future use of the old nursing home and work up a cost estimate in time for the Aug. 22 county delegation meeting.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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