Committee of the Whole Receives Report on HJ McFarland Home Reconstruction

H.J. McFarland Memorial Home. (Gazette file photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

During the August 18th Committee of the Whole Meeting, Kyle Cotton, Director of Long Term Care, provided the committee with an update on the redevelopment plans for H.J. McFarland Memorial Home.

According to Cotton, the report outlines a refined cost estimate based on information obtained through the current Functional Programming Phase, as well as research by staff and consultation with Architects and consultants. The report outlines size, scope, and cost in comparison with other comparable long term care homes and offers possibilities for financing the redevelopment.

Staff recommendations included that council consult with the architect on advancing to the preliminary and schematic design phase, that council direct staff to finalize a development agreement with the Ministry of Long- Term Care based on a 136,000 square foot building and return to the new council to execute.

Staff also recommended that council direct staff to engage in the Prince Edward Affordable Housing Corporation to discuss their interest in using the current home.

The new 136,000 square foot structure, which would be built at the rear of the property, would accommodate the 850 square foot per resident bed criteria and would include the following needed space design elements:

  • All private Resident Rooms to accommodate 2-sided access to Resident beds
  • Three-piece washrooms with showers
  • Eight-foot width corridors in the Residential Home Areas
  • Additional space in dining rooms to address new Infection Control separation guidelines and to accommodate more complex acuities in the Resident population
  • Additional amenity areas in each 32- bed Resident Home Area
  • A 1500 sq. ft multipurpose area for classroom use that could also accommodate up to 60 Residents with mobility aids
  • Enlarged staff support spaces to provide safe, efficient, healthy and comfortable work environments

There will also be room for services, such as: adult day programs, rental space for synergistic healthcare related services, and additional catering and continuation of Meals-on-Wheels.

The cost for the new H.J. McFarland Memorial Home is  $75,558,023.

Councillor John Hirsch posed a question regarding the cost and the proposed construction deadline of 2024.

Councillor John Hirsch. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“I guess the good news is we’ve somehow managed to bring the cost down form the $93 million. But, as I read in the report regarding financings, we’re now expecting to get $31,454,469 from province,” said Hirsch. “That’s 41.6 per cent. That’s not what we were promised in the lobby of the current H.J. McFarland Memorial Home when the mayor and I were there with the Minister of Long-Term Care.”

Hirsch also questioned the financial ability for the new construction to be completed by 2024-the year the current home will be declared uninhabitable.

“I can’t imagine the province will insist on this date applying if we aren’t financially able to make this date happening…how do staff see this happening? Is 2024 cast in stone?” Hirsch asked.

Speaking of the deadline, Wallace noted that until there is a development agreement in place “there is no real deadline.”

Originally, the reconstruction of the home was intended as an expansion rather than a new construction. Due to this discrepancy in expectation versus reality, Wallace noted there will be a bylaw coming forward to the next term of council that will allow more funds to be set aside for the new build.

She also noted that staff is proposing a new bylaw to come forward to the new council that should address

“We are proposing a new bylaw that will rectify the current bylaw that was based on the fact that we were calculating this as an expansion as opposed to new building, therefore not enough money has been put away in the development charge to accommodate that,” said Wallace. “We still have some work to do, as the report outlines, related to sponsorships and other lucrative funding sources and hope to bring that along with the development agreement to next council.”

CAO Maria Wallace. (Submitted Photo)

Wallace also addressed the complicated issue of municipal financing for such builds in relatively small municipalities such as the County.

“In terms of conversations with the province, this is something the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus are  united on and that is that a big chunk of the calculation, as in tens of millions of dollars, is related to interest because the province doesn’t give you their portion on one day. It’s an annual contribution over 25 years,” Wallace explained. “We still have to build the thing up front and we borrow from the province. There’s no argument- they should either make that borrowing a zero interest, because we’re really borrowing to cover the fact their money comes in slowly, or they should give the money up front in a lump sum. This is a municipal finance issue much more complicated in a small community without a huge tax base. The people at the province who support long term care builds are used to big regions and cities where managing debt isn’t a big issue. That’s the conversation we’re continuing to have in the hopes of reducing the portion of this build cost which is just the math of managing debt.”

Unlike where it is currently situated, the revamped H.J. McFarland Memorial Home will be built at the back of the property close to the Millennium Trail.

“The rationale is they’ll be able to see wildlife etc., but as soon as the construction starts that wildlife will be gone. One thing they will get is the dust cloud the four wheelers stir up when they drive by,” said Nieman. “Why put it at the back of the property?”

Cotton noted there will be consultation with the Friends of the Millennium Trail as well as the public before the build goes forward.

“We are anticipating a comprehensive park or landscaping space that will incorporate the Millennium Trail,” added Cotton. “Also, being closer to the back will allow us to design and have creativity when it comes to a new build that will follow some new principles developing in long term care.”

Councillor Bill Roberts inquired about the current home’s potential for affordable housing.
“I was encouraged by the clause indicating engagement with the Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation to discuss their interest in the future use of the existing building. Has there already been some socializing of that interest?” asked Roberts.

Wallace replied that the structure should be retained, if possible, and that the clause would be a good place to begin having a formal conversation with the PECAHC Board regarding affordable housing at the current home’s location.

“You may recall we had a KPMG Study that identified this as a potential location for housing. Since then, the question has been raised and it is built and designed by a renowned architect, so it does have some degree of importance and should be retained, if possible,” expressed Wallace. “From a staff perspective, we see this a s good place to have a more formal conversation with the board and determine if they’d be interested in the whole space etc.”