Valley Health Services administrators, board members, state legislators and others donned helmets and dug into the ground using ceremonial shovels to officially break the ground for a new assisted living facility.
The facility will be the first of its kind in Herkimer County, according to officials, and is something that will be needed as the aging population increases.
“It's been a long time coming,” said Lisa Betrus, VHS chief executive officer and administrator, before Friday's groundbreaking.
The Living and Learning Community will feature 46 studio apartments with multi-purpose rooms, an activity room and a laboratory and classroom for the education of health care workers. The facility will have an Adirondack lodge style look to it, in keeping with the environment, which includes open fields, woods and a pond. According to a news release from VHS, Betrus said residents will have access to personal care, room and board, housekeeping, personal emergency response services, nursing care, physical, occupational and speech therapies, medical supplies and equipment and case management services.
Officials said the complex will promote independence for older adults with limited financial resources who might otherwise not receive services or move into a much more costly skilled-nursing facility.
The new facility — which is projected to be completed by July 2014 — will also bring a minimum of 27 new jobs for the area.
“This type of project is so beneficial to our area in so many ways,” said state Sen. James Seward, R - Oneonta, before the groundbreaking. “There's not one assisted living bed in Herkimer County. That's going to change now.”
Seward also praised that the facility will be used as a training center for future health care workers. He said those students will come “right here to continue that quality of care and compassion.”
Kathy Eisenhut, VHS assistant administrator, said in a news release the workforce education aspect of the project will include approximately 48 students a year, who will learn how to be home health aides and certified nursing assistants.
“All local teaching institutions will be encouraged to use the new training center to enhance their geriatric and health care course work,” she said.
Betrus said they received three state grants to go toward the $12 million project, including two HEAL NY grants totaling $5.2 million.
“The state Department of Health, they get it. They understand that our county has one of the fastest aging populations in New York state,” said Betrus. “They stepped up and put money behind it and we're very grateful.”
Betrus thanked many individuals and organizations involved with the project. Her list included Seward, state Assemblyman Marc Butler, U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, the Herkimer Town Council and the Herkimer Town Planning Board, M&T Bank, the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Council, J. M. McDonald Foundation, Bassett Regional Corporation and the Valley Health Services Board of Directors and staff.
Page 2 of 2 - Betrus also thanked Anna Lyga and Mary Anne Lesniak, from who they purchased the 220 acres of land, which is adjacent to the East Herkimer Fish and Game Club.
Both were present at Friday's groundbreaking.
“I think it's great,” said Lesniak, who inherited the land when her husband, Robert, Lyga's brother, died.
Lyga said on behalf of her family, past and present, they were glad to see the land being used for this kind of facility.
“We're very happy,” she said. “I think it's something that will service a lot of people.”