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New Akron Care Center to offer residents privacy, space

Monday, December 3, 2012

Construction is ongoing on the new about 32,000-square-foot Akron Care Center being built across Highway 3 from the Akron Fire Station. Land for the new 45-bed center was donated by John and Mary Lucken, of Akron.
Construction of the new Akron Care Center is on schedule -- exterior walls are up, shingles are on the roof and interior work is ongoing.

The about $5.5 million center, across Highway 3 from the Akron Fire Station, is set for completion in July next year.

Favorable weather has helped construction of the about 32,000-square-foot facility progress, said Gary Horton, Akron's director of public works.

The new Akron Care Center will offer residents private bedrooms and a neighborhood concept design, which includes dining and living spaces in each residential wing. There will also be community areas throughout the building, set for completion in July 2013.
"They have been able to complete a lot of cement work as far as the driveway and parking lot that wasn't supposed to be completed until spring," he said.

General contractor, Gil Haugan Construction, Inc., of Sioux Falls, S.D., said there won't be any problems completing the project on time, Horton said.

Residents and staff must be moved into the new center prior to an August deadline to meet federal requirements to have a sprinkler system.

The existing two-story Akron Care Center, which was built in the 1950s as Akron's hospital, couldn't meet those requirements.

"It's either put the sprinklers in your building, build a new building or close down your building," said Brandon Verros, Akron Care Center administrator.

It was decided by city and care center officials that building a new care center was the best option.

This past May construction began on the 45-bed center, which is designed with the neighborhood concept.

That design includes separate dining and living room spaces in each residential wing including different community spaces throughout.

In addition, the new center will include a salon, an activity room, a kitchen and bistro, and private rooms for residents.

Verros said he thinks one of the most attractive parts of the new center is the private rooms.

"I think it will be a lot more enjoyable for the residents and their families," he said.

The existing center has both private and semi-private rooms.

He added that the new center will have a much larger physical therapy room.

"I've been in facilities where you look at a therapy room and it's the size of a large closet," Verros said. "I think we're very fortunate to have 1,100 square feet."

It's not only city and care center officials who support construction of the new center, but also the Akron community as a whole.

As part of financing the new center, members of the community have nearly reached a $1.5 million fundraising goal, said Akron Mayor Harold Higman.

"Those pledges have been coming in great," he said. "We're out trying to raise additional monies, which we are being successful at."

In addition to the $1.5 million from donations, financing for the new center comes from two other sources.

They include a $4 million United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Community Facility direct loan and $1.25 million in general obligation bonds provided by the city of Akron.

Initially city officials also approved using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for any remaining expenses, said Chad Ericson, Akron city councilman.

Ericson is the council's liaison with the Akron Care Center board on the project.

Because the fundraising has been successful, Ericson said he doesn't think using TIF money is going to be necessary.

"In general, just talking about getting the building built, the money is there," he said. "That's great. I couldn't have asked more from the community."

Ericson said it's still important for people to honor their donation pledges.

A USDA requirement means dollars must be put into a fund to help with debt service and depreciation costs for the center for the next 10 years, he explained.

"The pledge money is going to help us create a buffer so if we do have some lean months, we have this account to pay for the building," Ericson said.

In addition to monetary donations, Akron community members are helping with construction of the care center in other ways.

For example, a local man offered to drive to Sioux City with a truck and trailer to pick up some furniture and bring it to Akron, Verros said.

Higman said another individual came forward to purchase a generator for the new center.

"All in all we've had great responses from the community," Higman said. "Everybody's looking forward to its completion next July."

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