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Lowville hospital gets confirmation of $900,000 dialysis grant

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County General Hospital officials have received confirmation that they will receive more than $900,000 from the state Department of Health toward its dialysis project.

“The grant support means that Lewis County General Hospital will not have to issue debt for this project,” said Eric R. Burch, CEO of the county-owned hospital. “If other funding avenues do not materialize, the unfunded amount of the project — approximately $400,000 — will be paid by the rent we collect from DaVita on the 10-year lease, which generates $123,000 annually.”

“It’s nice that they recognized that we have the need and that they’re supporting us in the effort,” said Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, chairman of the legislative Hospital Committee and a member of the Board of Managers.

Mr. Hathway specifically credited Wladis Law Firm for its assistance in securing the grant funds and Lowville resident Edward Ingersoll for his dogged pursuit of the dialysis project.

Mr. Ingersoll, now in his 90s, in 2005 presented to county legislators a petition signed by more than 2,400 people requesting dialysis services here, then later enlisted the support of state Sen. Joseph L. Griffo, R-Rome, and started a “Dollar-A-Week Club” to heighten public awareness and raise funds for the project.

Along with the $904,837 commissioner’s discretionary grant, the $1.7 million project is to be funded by a $300,000 Empire State Development grant and roughly $100,000 from Lewis County Hospital Foundation collected through various fundraising efforts, including those spearheaded by Mr. Ingersoll and an annual bowling tournament.

The county is expected to cover the balance of project costs with reserve funds until the hospital can pay off the debt, likely within a few years. Hospital officials continue to seek additional funding for the project.

Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, has designed a 7,200-square-foot addition to be built off the west side of the Medical Arts Building’s first floor and basement to accommodate the dialysis center. After it’s built, the hospital would turn it over to DaVita Inc., which would do more than $200,000 worth of additional interior finish work.

“We’re really excited to finally see it go,” said Bernier, Carr President Rick W. Tague, whose firm first took on the project in 2009.

Bids for general construction, mechanical, plumbing and electrical are due by Wednesday morning.

Thus far, 31 contractors have picked up packets on at least one of the four contracts, Mr. Tague said. “There is good interest in the project as far as bidding goes,” he said.

A report on low bidders will likely be presented to hospital managers at their regular meeting Wednesday evening, but a special meeting will probably need to be held to approve contracts after those bidders are more closely reviewed, Mr. Tague said.

Construction should start some time in May and run through the end of the year, with an opening planned by next March, he said.

The project will feature a new entrance canopy at the hospital’s primary entry point, so a protected tunnel will be needed for a time, Mr. Tague said.

“There will be some disruption during construction,” he said.

The planned center would provide a local treatment option for Lewis County residents who now must travel to Watertown or Utica to receive dialysis. Up to 30 dialysis patients in Lewis County typically undergo four-hour treatments three days a week.

Along with rent, DaVita also will reimburse the hospital for maintenance and housekeeping services, electricity, heating and water and sewer services.

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