June 24, 2018
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Ellsworth reconsiders plans for new firehouse to accommodate potential nursing home project

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — An open field next to a former school that now houses a senior center is the perfect site for a relocated and expanded Collier’s Rehab & Nursing Center, said an official with the home’s parent company.

The 2½-acre site had been slated as a potential new home for the city’s fire department, but City Manager Michelle Beal said that plan would be abandoned to accommodate the nursing home.

“We’re looking at other places to put the fire department because of this,” she said Wednesday, noting that the expansion of Collier’s would create a few dozen jobs and fulfill a need for senior housing in Ellsworth.

Collier’s is owned by Portland-based company First Atlantic Healthcare, which owns 16 similar facilities throughout the state and employs about 1,700 people, according to CEO Ken Bowden. He said he expects to come to an agreement with the city about the price of the parcel soon, and to be ready to break ground in April.

Bowden said the relocation, which will move the company from its Birch Avenue location across the street to the athletic fields at the former Bryant E. Moore School, will more than double the number of beds at Collier’s, from the current 44 to 91.

About two-thirds of those beds would be for patients who need skilled nursing care, with 24/7 support, and the rest would be for clients in an assisted-living facility. The new Collier’s would be a two-story facility, he said, of about 50,000 square feet.

“This will be a much larger facility,” Bowden said Wednesday. “It will have many more options along the continuum of services than we have today.”

The former Moore School is currently leased to Friends in Action, which operates a senior center at the school, offering services and programs for the elderly, and the Down East Family YMCA, which operates its day care program there.

Bowden said the lot is a perfect fit for Collier’s, not only because of the proximity to the senior center, Maine Coast Memorial Hospital and Ellsworth’s downtown, but also because of the potential for interaction between seniors and children.

Evan Carroll, a Portland architect who focuses on housing for seniors, baby boomers and empty-nesters, said promoting intergenerational living is beneficial to seniors and children alike.

“For young people, it provides a sense of context in the world,” he said Wednesday. “For older people, it’s about providing a sense of the future, of hope. … The modern world is a little alienating, and we need to combat that.”

The city had drawn up rough schematics for a new fire department at the site adjacent to the Moore School, Beal said. The current fire department, in the lower level of City Hall, is not big enough to accommodate expansion, she said, and space is getting tight.

But Beal said the city wasn’t particularly attached to the idea, and that planning hadn’t gone much further than the rough sketches necessary for grant applications.

Beal said she would put together a proposal to sell the land to First Atlantic Healthcare and bring it to the CIty Council in September.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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