A recommendation by the Granite Falls Hospital Board to purchase property adjacent to Granite Ridge Place as the location of a proposed replacement nursing home sailed by the Granite Falls City Council on a unanimous vote Monday night.
Hospital CEO and administrator, George Gerlach, attended the meeting to seek support and provide the council background as to the board's decision making process. This past November, the Granite Falls council approved a request from the hospital board to purchase a 40 acre plot of land in the Industrial Park that would have provided adequate space for both the new nursing home and a future hospital, thereby allowing for what would have eventually been a community healthcare campus.
Ideally, the board was said to have preferred to have the nursing home next to the hospital owned senior living facility, Granite Ridge Place, but original negotiations with land owner Dale Voss were said to have been cost prohibitive. Thus, the board looked elsewhere, eventually settling on the Industrial Park where the hospital could have purchased the land from the city at an enticing rate of $83,400, or roughly $2,000 per acre.
The Industrial Park may very well have been the final stop had the nursing home initiative not been slowed by news of forthcoming changes to reimbursement rates by Blue Cross Blue Shield. That information, which detailed a projected cost impact to the hospital at close to a million dollars, caused the board to have to reconsider the hospital's financing situation, allowing time for more discussion on the location issue.
Concerns emerging from both the board and the community revolved around two perceptions; one, that the healthcare campus would change the nature of the industrial park and that which might be located therein; and two, that by locating the nursing home in the Industrial Park the city would be more or less removing its elderly from the body of the community.
With this in mind, Gerlach said the board re-evaluated its options without the previously requisite large acreage needed for the healthcare campus plan. Topping that list was the property adjacent to Granite Ridge Place.
Following the new round of negotiations between Gerlach and Voss, the board gave the administrator its blessing to approach the city council to request approval to enter into a purchase agreement, this time for just 8.1 acres of property, at a cost of $147,084, or just over $18,000 per acre.
This figure would later be adjusted to include increased three additional acres that city engineer Dave Berryman recommended to allow for ideal road access to County Road 38. Thus, the final figure approved by the council was for a purchase price of 11 acres not to exceed $198,859.
"There's always twist and turns," acknowledged Mayor Dave Smiglewski.
"There is," said Gerlach in agreement. "And we'll keep knockin things off our list until we get the nursing home project done."
Page 2 of 2 - In other news:
•The Granite Falls Historical Society received the blessing of the council to pursue a Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) Legacy Funding grant that would facilitate approximately $175,500 in repairs to the Andrew J. Volstead House.
The Granite Falls Historical Society has long taken note of the weakening substructure of the 135 year old National Landmark––one of just 24 in all of Minnesota. In 2012 the organization was awarded a $5,500 grant by the Minnesota Historical Society to fund an inspection and recommendation for Volstead House repairs.
That grant brought forth an inspection from LSE Engineers, of Le Sueur, which identified estimated site construction costs at the aforementioned $175,500 figure. The grant would cover this cost, save $28,000 in matching funds being offered by the historical society.
•Council members tabled a donation request by Ashley Hanson, co-owner PlaceBase Productions, to fund a coinciding event for this year's Meander Opening Night Celebration.
Director, Hanson, and Playwright, Andrew Gaylord, worked with area locals to create a Meandering River Walk, held in conjunction with last year's Meander, and also the Paddling Theater, which was held alongside with CURE's River History Weekend and the 50th Anniversary of the DNR's State Water Trails division.
Hanson said that those two events brought over 400 individuals to downtown Granite Falls and put over 200 on the Minnesota River, respectively, through grants from the Kresge Foundation. This time, however, the grant funding had not come through, and if the city was going to host another PlaceBase production, funding would have to come from elsewhere.
The idea for this year's production would revolve around the 1940s to 1960s––a time many referred to as the "golden age" of Granite Falls.
"The community has asked for this project," said Hanson. "We want to bring those stories and that history to life .... and kind of remind everybody what it was like and that it can be this way again."
Hanson said that she visited 20 main street businesses and that all expressed enthusiastic support for the project––half of which doing so monetarily. In addition, the Granite Historical Society and Chamber of Commerce has also pledged financial support.
Steve Nordaune said he thought the council should support the project, but the council would table the request allowing City Manager Bill Lavin time to see if money could be located within the budget.
The request was for $2,500 from the city. Hanson and Gaylord are looking to raise $10,000 to support the project in sum.
•The council waived quotes and approved a $4,505 quote to replace the air conditioner in the Granite Falls Library.