By Lucas Vader
The Nov. 12 Town of Orchard City Board of Trustees meeting started off with an informative presentation from Volunteers of America (VOA) regarding a significant expansion of the Horizon Care Center.
As VOA Regional Marketing Director Erin Berge put it, “Volunteers of America is a national faith-based nonprofit. We were founded in 1896. Next year, we’ll be 125 years old.”
While overseeing numerous assisted living facilities with residential wellbeing at the top of the priority list, Berge explained the need for services regarding geriatric behavioral health, as mindsets and behaviors of the elderly and end-of-life people can become complicated.
With that, Berge explained the Program of All-Inclusive Care (PACE), stating that it would be a detrimental service to the future of Horizon Care Center.
With that, program expansion will require facility expansion, which was the main topic presented by Berge and Bill Wade, the consultant for the expansion project overall.
PACE “is available for those who are 55 years of age or older, who reside in Delta or Montrose county,” Berge said. Essentially, as long as residents are able to live alone, they are allowed to be within the PACE program, which includes all-inclusive care in order to make it continually possible.
Berge and Wade presented a plan for a total of 60 new living units for Horizon Care Center, which would provide opportunities for the elderly to live in the midst of that all-inclusive care without being in a commonly-stigmatized nursing-home type of atmosphere.
However, there are a few obstacles in the way of building the new units at this time, meaning the true living expansion will not begin for some time. These issues, first and foremost, revolve around the fact that the sewage lagoon would not be able to handle any expansion at this time.
“One of the things that brought the whole expansion into a kind of deep planning mode is when they realized the existing care center based there in the mobile homes have that sewage system almost at capacity right now,” Wade said.
According to Wade, they had initially hoped that they could expand the sewage system to accommodate the expansion, but that was deemed a noncompliant option.
“We spent several thousand dollars on a study that proves that is not the case,” Wade said in regards to the planned sewage expansion. “They’re going to have to remodel the facility and bring it up to standards.”
The cost of rebuilding the sewage lagoon to make the housing expansion possible will cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.
Wade, therefore, informed the board of trustees of VOA’s plans to pursue a special improvement district in order to create enough revenue to make it happen. Next steps would be contingent on that. If proposed, the special improvement district, which would impose a hyper-local tax of some sort on the property, would not run until the November 2021 election cycle.
On top of that, the parameters of the potential district appear to be unusual. Since the special improvement district would probably only encompass Horizons Care Center, there would only be one property owner in the district. That means there would only be one eligible voter to approve the district and one property owner in the district. That would be VOA.
According to Wade, when the proposal for a special improvement district goes to district court, it may be determined that an election is not necessary.
Following the hopeful success of the special improvement district, construction of housing could begin as early as late fall next year. They would allegedly be built south of the existing Horizons Care Center.
After the sewage lagoon rebuild, construction would ensue gradually as demand for housing increased, but the plan for all 60 units would be complete right off the bat, meaning the sewage lagoon would be built in a way that it could support 60 additional housing units.
Wade said that the concept plan for 60 units was actually a large increase over the original plan for 20. This was increased when they found out about the need to rebuild the sewage lagoon. As the project grew, they deemed it better to extend their plans much further into the future.
Next steps in the expansion plan would be to work with the Delta County Health Department to ensure compliance every step of the way. One block of 20 units would be built at a time as the demand for housing deems it necessary.
Each set of 20 units will allegedly cost about $4 million to construct, but the rebuilt sewage system would provide an incentive to keep building them until all 60 are done.
Wade and Berge both said that they ended up coming to the board of trustees with the presentation before they would have technically been required to do so, but they’d received questions about the potential project and wanted to create that early communication with the town. They offered themselves up to any questions the board may have in the coming months and years as the project takes shape.
Wade said they plan to start moving on the special improvement district in the next 60-90 days. The town board’s approval will be an early step in the project overall.