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Winsted council to learn more about St. Mary’s plans Tuesday
August 16, 2010

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Winsted City Council will continue its public hearing to approve St. Mary’s preliminary financing Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. in the council’s chamber at Winsted City Hall.

As part of this hearing, the council should learn more about plans for a pharmacy at St. Mary’s, as well.

The financing for St. Mary’s will include two major projects that are tentatively scheduled to begin Wednesday, Sept. 1.

The projects are a $2.5 million remodeling project for St. Mary’s Care Center, and a new memory loss care facility estimated to cost $3.2 million. In addition, St. Mary’s will be refinancing the notes that the city had issued in 2008 for the new Ridgeview Clinic and major renovations done to St. Mary’s Care Center. The total financing is estimated at $17 million.

Because nonprofits can’t issue their own financial debt and have it be tax-exempt, it has to go through a conduit, and in this case, it’s the city. There isn’t any liability on the part of the city to approve this bonding.

This is preliminary approval, and nothing is final as far as the plans for the future projects are concerned, but one change has already been noticed in the care center perspective. The name on the newly remodeled care center will be St. Mary’s, not St. Mary’s Care Center.

“St. Mary’s has been a stand-alone nursing home for a long time,” St. Mary’s administrator/CEO Andy Opsahl said. “The world is changing and we are trying to provide a campus atmosphere . . . we are really talking more about St. Mary’s campus, not just St. Mary’s Care Center.”

The remodeling project, which will take place on the current St. Mary’s facility, will use existing space, rearranging the floor plan to better serve the needs of the resident population.

There will be some type of pharmacy, which is to be operated by Keaveny Drug owners Deb and Kelly Keaveny, according to Opsahl.

Deb Keaveny, owner of Keaveny Drug in Winsted, will be at Tuesday’s public hearing to go into more detailed plans for the pharmacy, according to Opsahl.

Deb Keaveny was out of town at the time of this article, and Opsahl said nothing has been confirmed with her except she would be responsible for operating both the pharmacy at St. Mary’s and the pharmacy in downtown Winsted.

“I don’t know if they will both be pharmacies right now,” Opsahl said. “I do know she has talked about having pickup available and having a convenience store at both locations.”

Opsahl said there will be access to the pharmacy from inside St. Mary’s and there will be an entrance from the outside.

“We understand that the city wants to keep the businesses downtown open,” Opsahl said. “We are on the same page, and none of this (St. Mary’s pharmacy) changes how many businesses or storefronts are downtown at all. This just provides another opportunity and another option for the community.”

Because St. Mary’s is currently not zoned for a pharmacy, the city is considering a conditional use permit for St. Mary’s campus, according to Winsted City Administrator Andrew Elbert.

“It will have to go through the planning commission and then get final approval from the council,” Elbert said in a recent phone conversation.

Elbert said there were other options, but the conditional use permit would be the best for the future plans at St. Mary’s.

“We are working through the zoning with the city,” Opsahl said, “and the way it will happen.”

The pharmacy is just one of the changes that will take place in the remodeling project.

Six new private rooms with bath and shower; ceiling lifts that will go right into the bathroom; and probably will include a private phone, dorm-style refrigerator, and microwave, according to Opsahl.

The six new private rooms and the four current private rooms at St. Mary’s will be used for short-stay rehabilitation, according to Opsahl. A beauty salon will be included, but will be used by all of the residents.

Also, for short-stay residents, there will be a private dining room and lounge, a private therapy treatment room, a type of store where short-stay residents will find equipment that they might need in their home when they are ready to leave St. Mary’s; and a wellness room which is similar to a fitness club for seniors with a very low monthly membership fee, Opsahl said.

“We are going for a hotel and hospitality environment,” Opsahl said.

People have different needs when they move in for long-term care versus short-term, according to Opsahl.

Other changes will be a different entrance, larger windows in the new private rooms, and the outside facade, which will give St. Mary’s a completely different look.

Plans for the memory loss care facility will also be included in the preliminary financing approval.

The new facility will have a total of 16 units, eight units on each side, which will provide two separate households within the building and a staff support area. The 12,000-square-foot facility is designed to have the look and feel of a home setting.

The windows are very large. “The idea that natural light can extend the quality of life much longer,” Opsahl said. “Waking up according to the body clock and ignoring the alarm clock, at some point, really brings a higher quality of life in memory loss care.”

Each side of the memory loss care facility will have a kitchen, dining room, living room, and each of the 16 units will have its own bath and shower.

The resident portion is designed for mealtime so they can come together as a family.

“It is very important to continue some routines and continue to try and challenge yourself. That is an important part of this model,” Opsahl said.

Two of the eight rooms on each side of the facility will allow for roommates, possibly a husband and wife, or someone might want a larger suite, Opsahl said.

There will be a garden area where residents can go outside in a safe, secure environment. Staff sight lines are unobstructed throughout the entire building.

Also included is a spa, sauna, laundry area, and hair salon.

The difference between other facilities that may include memory care within a care center, is “This whole environment is designed as the best environment for memory care,” Opsahl said.

“We hope we can create an environment where once you move in, you don’t have to move out. That is the goal of this project,” Opsahl said. “You may see a couple of facilities like this, but it is not very common in this area.”

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