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A major renovation and expansion project at the Sullivan County retirement home took a big step forward on Tuesday after the delegation of state officials unanimously approved a bond of up to $26 million. for the project, which is currently estimated to cost between $57 and $63 million.
“We were finally able to come together and approve the nursing home renovations,” delegation chair State Rep. John Cloutier, D-Claremont, said after the vote. “It wasn’t easy at times, but I’m glad we did it unanimously. I think it sends a strong message to our constituents that we appreciate the care home.”
Cloutier’s comments echoed those of other members of the delegation.
Brian Sullivan, D-Grantham, said it took longer than most had hoped, but the delay was worth it for financial reasons, as the county is expected to receive about $25 million in funds. public for the project from a $50 million county capital improvement fund. rest homes. Others were eager to finally see the project move forward.
“Now is the time to start caring for the elderly and their well-being with a redesigned nursing home,” said Skip Rollins, R-Newport.
In addition to the state bond and money, which still needs to be approved by the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR), the county will use $2 million it has obtained in federal funds, $7 million from the county’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act. and up to $5 million from the county’s capital reserve fund.
The final resolution, approved by a 12-0 vote, limits the county commission to bonding up to $20 million in the “first tranche,” but gives it the power to bond an additional $6 million if needed.
The delegation’s finance executive committee recommended that the bond be made in two phases to avoid borrowing more than necessary and paying additional interest.
“It’s a three-year project. We don’t need the money all of a sudden,” said state Rep. Sue Gottling, D-Sunapee. “Every dollar we don’t appropriate saves taxpayers money.”
Bonding of just $20 million instead of $26 million would save $300,000 a year in interest payments, proponents of the limit said.
State Rep. Judy Aron, R-Acworth, whose motion to change the resolution and remove the $20 million cap on the first bond was defeated by a 7-5 vote, said the county could pay more if interest rates continue to rise and more bonding is needed.
Removing the restriction on the amount of the first bond gives stewards more flexibility, Aron said. Other Republicans agreed, saying the restriction ties commissioners’ hands.
But Democrats feared the change to the resolution, approved by the county’s bond attorney, would require additional legal review and delay the vote again.
County Commissioner Ben Nelson, of Newport, said he was happy with the first bond limit because commissioners have the sole authority to issue a second bond, if necessary, without seeking delegation approval.
After the meeting, Sullivan County Executive Derek Ferland said GOFERR’s funding application was available Tuesday and he expects the county to file it in a few weeks. At a meeting in July, Sullivan said the GOFERR committee and the governor had given positive signals that Sullivan County would get its maximum amount of 40% of the project cost.
But Ferland also told the delegation on Tuesday there would be competition for the $50 million, including from Strafford County, which plans to rebuild its retirement home.
“I don’t know where they are,” Ferland said.
The Retirement Home project at Unity includes renovations to the Stearns Building, upgrades to the MacConnell Building and an 82,000 square foot addition.