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$6 million project proposed

By Staff | Nov 4, 2013

At a meeting last Monday, the Wells City Council was presented with a $6 million plan which would create new assisted living and memory care facilities in Wells, Winnebago and Truman.

The future project in Wells would add a new 40-unit assisted living and memory care facility in the northwest quadrant of the town.

Winnebago would see a 10-unit nursing home and up to 20 new units of assisted living added to the 16 units that exist today at Parker Oaks, for a total of 36 assisted-living apartments.

These preliminary plans would come to fruition ideally in 11 months, with construction starting in 2014.

Elder Care of Minnesota (ECM) is a for profit owner and operator of senior living facilities in rural towns and areas of Minnesota, with 18 locations, including Park-view Care Center in Wells and Parker Oaks in Winnebago.

However, ECM has filed papers with the appropriate government authorities to help form a non-profit organization which will take over ownership and operations of Parker Oaks in Winnebago and of the new facility in Wells and it will help facilitate the new construction.

This non-profit organization will be 100 percent community-based and owned with an ECM volunteer to facilitate anything the community board needs. ECM expects the board to be in place by Jan. 1.

“This concept only works if there are active community members involved,” ECM advisor John Dettloff says. “After the board is formed, they will develop plans and see if lenders will loan the necessary funds for the $6 million project.”

The board will need to hire an executive director to make management suggestions and hire personnel once everything is in place.

The future facility in Wells will be built on land acquired by Jim and Kathy Birchem.

The Birchems are the owners of ECM and currently own Parker Oaks and the Parkview Care Center.

According to ECM advisor Dettloff, this move is a solution to the changing nature of the senior care industry.

“The landscape of senior care is drastically shifting in a significant way.” Dettloff says.

Seniors are seeking to remain in their local communities and in their homes as long as possible. Also, assisted living has become the first choice for senior living because of the desire for independence and monthly costs, he explains.

According to Dettloff, it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain continuum of care operations in small communities, particularly if the communities are in relative close proximity to one another. These demographic marketplaces and financial conditions requires a new approach to meeting the goals of rural seniors and the communities they live in.

Non-profit programs can enhance the long term viability of the care operations by providing better long term financing. It can also rationalize housing and services consistent with the market place and changing needs, allowing renovation and building of new facilities to meet the needs of the region. Fundraising and charitable requests are also benefits for the non-profit organizations, according to an information packet Dettloff handed out at the city council meeting.

The success of this non-profit can provide great resources that meets the needs and expectations of seniors and their families for the rest of their life. The care strategy meets the changing market place and the financial strategy allows for the strong viability of the operations, according to Dettloff.

“We expect that this new facility will actually not only stabilize employment, but add employees as well,” Dettloff says.