By Jesse Wood
Editor’s Note: ARHS’s request for county funds for infrastructure costs was taken off of the commissioners agenda in March at the request of ARHS. The proposal outlined below will now be before the commissioners next Tuesday, June 4.
May 31, 2013. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is requesting $150,000 from Watauga County for infrastructure costs for a new post-acute care facility called Appalachian Place at Chestnut Ridge Center for Healthy Living and Rehabilitation at next Tuesday’s Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting.
The facility will sit on 68 acres that ARHS purchased in the past several years and was annexed by the Town of Blowing Rock last year. The $20-million complex will eventually replace the existing Blowing Rock Hospital.
According to the board packet for the meeting, Appalachian Place at Chestnut Ridge will be constructed within two phases. Phase One includes the construction of an 85,000-square-foot post-acute care facility. 110 jobs will be transferred from Blowing Rock Hospital and 59 new positions will be created.
Upon completion of the first phase, Phase Two will consist of the construction of several complimentary facilities – primary care clinic, an onsite retail pharmacy, development of a retirement community, specialty medical practices, ancillary service providers, and site redevelopment at the Blowing Rock Hospital site.
“The existing Blowing Rock Hospital will be demolished at the completion of Phase One. Because of its scenic location on the rim of the Johns River Gorge in Blowing Rock, it will be remarketed as a prime commercial location for real estate or tourism development,” according to information AHRS reps provided at a prior Watauga County Economic Development Commission meeting.
The EDC has recommended that the board of commissioners grant AHRS’s request for assistance for $150,000 for water and sewer infrastructure needs upfront with the stipulation that $75,000 of that money be tied to Phase Two of the project.
If Phase Two of the project does not begin within five years, then $75,000 would be required to be paid back to the county, according to the EDC recommendation noted in a memo from Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque.
AHRS estimates that the water and sewer costs for the entire project are $1,170,990, and it has sought outside funding to cover the majority of the costs. The NC Rural Center has provided a grant worth $585,495; Golden Leaf Foundation has provided a grant worth $100,000; and the Town of Blowing Rock has given $58,549.
“This $744,044 committed leaves the Town of Blowing Rock and ARHS approximately $426,946 short of the anticipated expense to complete the water and sewer infrastructure,” the aforementioned document notes. “This financial support is critical to save current jobs and serve as a catalyst for new job creation in Watauga County.”
At the commissioners annual two-day retreat in February, EDC Director Joe Furman alerted the board that this request would be brought to the commissioners in March.
Chairman Nathan Miller immediately asked Furman why should the county have to pay for $150,000 for ARHS infrastructure needs.
Furman mentioned that would be a question to ask ARHS representatives when they formally request the funds at the upcoming meeting.
“They need to speak for themselves on that,” Furman said at the retreat.
For more information about the project, click to https://www.hcpress.com/news/appalachian-place-at-chestnut-ridge-center-for-healthy-living-and-rehabilitation-plans-coming-together-for-spring-2014.html.