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Health care center not a Dunn deal, but it’s close

By Ann Knoedler

Plans to construct a new Dunn County Health Care Center in Menomonie survived an election on April 6. The proposed project has been a contentious issue because of the cost — about $22 million to build, plus operating costs.

Dunn County has been in the business of providing medical care to county residents for more than 100 years, but not everyone there feels they should continue that practice. So, in April county residents voted in 10 new board members, four of whom were up for re-election.

I really thought the election would mean the end of the road for this project; I’ve seen it happen to many a large municipal and/or county project when new officials are elected.

But surprisingly it was not.

The board is persevering, and decisions are still being made to move the project forward, even though those decisions are being approved by a much smaller majority than prior to the election.

Earlier this year the board made an innovative decision to bring the future of nursing home care to its community by agreeing to design the facility using the Green House Project model. Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh Inc. is the only other health care organization in Wisconsin to use the Green House concept. There are others around the country. The main concept of Green House is to de-institutionalize care for the elderly and to replicate as much as possible the feeling of living in a home by building homes.

Hoffman LLC, Appleton, has been hired on to provide design services and The Samuels Group, Wausau, was selected for construction services.

Many decisions still have to be made before this project becomes reality and a request for bids can be issued. They are still waiting for the financial feasibility report to determine if a new facility can sustain itself without affecting the county tax levy. And when the time comes to take action on a borrowing plan to pay for the project, two-thirds of the supervisors must vote “yea” — not a slim majority.

I don’t know about you, but the few nursing homes I’ve observed while visiting loved ones — even those with beautiful, immaculate surroundings — have left me hoping I don’t ever have to use one.

The Green House Project sounds like a move in the right direction. Dunn County residents should be grateful that their elected officials are fighting for something better, whether they think the county should operate a health care center or not.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at (414) 225-1822.

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