Chosen Valley Care Center expansion taking shape

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chosen Valley Care Center's expansion project is well underway, with the new wing being framed in and trusses arriving.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chosen Valley Care Center is getting some new footings.

So far, more than half those footings for a new building are in as are half the walls with work on the trusses underway, according to Chosen Valley Care Center maintenance and grounds manager Gerry Gathje.

“And I think, maybe for me, the most interesting part has been the infrastructure that has to go in before the footings – the plumbing, the drainage, the whole process to get footings into the ground and out of the ground,” he said. “And because we’re making an enclosed courtyard, all the rainwater has to drain out, and it has to drain underneath the new buildings. That’s been kind of educational or informational.”

Director Craig Backen agreed with Gathje about the new structures rising from the ground behind and to the north of the existing campus buildings, citing that he’s been most intrigued by the changes that were expected yet unexpected.

“It’s just the spatial needs back there. It’s one thing to look at the plans for the property, but it’s another thing to see it put in place,” he said.

And Gathje agreed with Backen on that point. “It’s interesting how our property all of a sudden is very full,” he said. “It did not seem like that wing would take up that much space.”

The center’s board and administration announced in late February plans for a $10.2 million project to expand and renovate the facility to accomplish three major goals: To address needed upgrades to facilities plant and infrastructure, to create a more efficient work environment for all staff, and most importantly, to enhance the living experience of the residents. The skilled nursing facility, which currently has shared rooms with bathrooms that are shared between two double rooms, will soon have 44 private rooms with private bathrooms, 24 single rooms with shared bathrooms, and five split-double rooms where two residents share a bathroom.

The facility presently has only four private rooms, 12 single rooms, six split-double rooms and 25 double rooms and some serious traffic jams in its shared resident bathrooms, cause for dismay among staff and residents.

Furthermore, the plans include the entire A wing being overhauled into a transitional care unit, or a place where hospital patients may stay to recover between the hospital and home on a short-term basis and receive skilled nursing services for rehabilitation. Chosen Valley Care Center received the state’s approval of its building design and renovation plans in early April, after which the administration and board convened to determine what would and wouldn’t fit into the budget, make changes, then put the project out for bids for a contractor to oversee the work.

Bids were opened in late summer and groundbreaking was held in October, with dignitaries and the most important people present – the residents. Construction growled into action in early November, with dirt work underway in the back yard throughout the month. December saw the infrastructure for the buildings’ footings, foundation and walls go up, and construction crews are presently working on installing framing for the walls. Also, preparations for mechanical upgrades such as a new generator to support the center’s residents when the power goes out are in progress.

 “There’s a lot of moving parts to this project. It’s not just back here in the back yard, but there’s the new addition that’s part of the new therapy department – that shell is in place already, waiting for the contractor to come back from working on the larger addition,” Backen acknowledged. “We’ll go from there, building the additions, and come back to renovate the wings.”

The community may not be able to see the construction, but staff and residents have witnessed daily changes as they go about their business. Gathje and Backen have heard remarks from residents who seem to be keeping a close eye on the project, enjoying the changes in the landscape.

“I think quite a few people are really enjoying having the activity outside their room windows,” Gathje said.

Backen related that the weather has been particularly kind to the construction workers, given that it’s January. “

Gathje concurred, “I don’t think they’ve missed a day between Monday and Friday.”

The questions that Gathje has answered about the project involve timeline. “People want to know, ‘When will it be done? What is it?’ And the employees are looking forward to working in a new resident building,” he said.

Backen stated that the nonprofit organization welcomes suggestions, ideas, monetary donations and volunteers from the community.

“I think there’s been a lot of interest in what the new additions will be and what the existing care center will be like,” Bakken said. “We’ll keep everyone updated along the way.”