The $54 million nursing home renovation project is in limbo after members of the 13-member Sullivan County delegation board reached an impasse this week.
“I get it, nobody wants to put their name to a tax increase,” said Benny Nelson, vice chair of the county commission.
“And nobody wants to vote against it. Who wants to vote against the most vulnerable population we have?”
Instead, the delegation voted along party lines to recess, putting off a project that has been years in the making. The county’s seven Democrats outvoted the delegation’s six Republicans in recessing Monday’s meeting.
Rep. Sue Gottling, D-Sunapee, said she wants to know about the finances of the project, which went from $35 million a few years ago to $54 million.
“I’m wondering what’s going on,” Gottling said.
The Sullivan County Health Care’s nursing and rehabilitation complex is in dire need of upgrades, according to Nelson. Parts of the property were built in the 1930s.
“We’re not building the Taj Mahal,” Nelson said. “We’ve got residents with 1970s ventilation systems.”
Nelson said the costs went up because of new building code requirements and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the cost of building materials. In addition, there is a lot of building going on in New Hampshire and contractors are now able to charge more, he said.
“Every contractor is out straight and can charge a premium,” Nelson said.
He said the project would likely mean a property tax increase of about 35 to 40 cents per $1,000 in valuation.
The county has already set aside about $8 million for the project; another $8 million is expected from the latest COVID relief bill, he said.
“We think we can still do it for the $35 million bond,” Nelson said.
The project will add bathrooms to the facility, making sure there is one bathroom per resident’s room. Every resident will also have a window, he said. There will be upgrades to the ventilation system and other building systems.
The project will make it safer for the residents, and for the staff, Nelson said.
“These are essential workers who showed up every day during the pandemic,” Nelson said.
Gottling said she wants to see something positive done on the project, but she has concerns about the cost.
“I want to see it come to a good conclusion,” she said.