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Grey Gables rebuild officially on hold

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Grey County has officially put an indefinite hold on its project to build a new 128-bed Grey Gables in Markdale.

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County council approved Thursday the minutes of its Aug. 26 special committee of the whole meeting, which formally confirms a motion – passed in a 50-40 recorded vote during that session – to pause the redevelopment project until the county decides otherwise.

“What that does, to be clear, is we are not turning back the beds. The ministry is OK with us pausing and just holding the potential for possibly still moving ahead with those beds. But, at this point, given the cost, I think the majority of county council is saying we’re not so sure we want to proceed with this,” Warden Selwyn Hicks said in an interview.

Council decided to pause the project after consultants for the county’s two long-term care redevelopment projects confirmed a $400,000 per-bed construction cost estimate is the “best forecast” based on all available information.

That estimate is nearly 43 per cent higher than the projected per-bed cost of $280,000 that was presented to council before it applied for provincial approval for the builds.

It’s unclear when county council could decide to lift the pause, Hicks said.

That could happen, perhaps, if the province were to change the funding formula for long-term care projects in municipalities with smaller property tax bases – something the county requested at this summer’s Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference – or if other revenue-generating opportunities are identified for the Grey Gables site.

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Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen, whose municipality is home to Grey Gables, tried unsuccessfully to get council to delay ratifying the Aug. 26 motion until it receives the second phase of a feasibility study on creating a “campus of care” on the Grey Gables site.

That document, which is being prepared by SHS Salter-Pilon, is to include an assessment of the existing Grey Gables building, potential concept plans for the overall site and financial and operational feasibility data.

McQueen said the consultants may reveal the existing building has a resale value or that the county could generate revenue by having assisted living beds on the site, which would reduce the county’s net cost to build the new Grey Gables.

“My point is, what are the options for the site and are they going to generate revenue to offset the rebuild?” he said in an interview.

CAO Kim Wingrove told council the Phase 2 report will be focused on whether the existing building could become a rehabilitation or assisted living facility.

“There will be some extensive renovations required likely to the existing Grey Gables facility, which would also need to be factored into any calculations,” she said.

Council can still decide after receiving the Phase 2 report to reconsider its decision to pause the Grey Gables rebuild, she said.

However, only a council member who voted for the pause can bring it back for reconsideration.

Council’s decision on Grey Gables does not impact the county’s project to build a new 128-bed Rockwood Terrace in Durham.

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The Ministry of Long-term Care requires the county to upgrade that home from Class C to Class A by 2025. Grey Gables is already a Class A facility.

The province has approved Grey County’s application to redevelop Rockwood Terrace’s 100 existing beds and add 28 new beds in a new 128-bed home in Durham.

In November, it also approved the county’s application for 62 new beds for Grey Gables. The county is planning to build next to the current home in Markdale a new 128-bed facility that is to include the new beds and 66 existing Grey Gables beds.

The province approved redevelopment funding for all of the Rockwood Terrace beds, but only the 62 new beds at Grey Gables.

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