UNIT – A heating line failure Thursday morning at the Sullivan County nursing home flooded two living rooms and a stairwell with high-temperature water, disrupting daily operations and highlighting the county’s concerns about the aging and deterioration of the building’s plumbing system.
By 5:00 a.m., overnight staff found a fair amount of water on the third floor of Stearns, one of three buildings that make up the county housing complex, according to Mary Bourque, director of facilities for the county. About half an inch of water pooled in two of the living rooms, and the staff found a significant amount of water that entered the stairwell at the north end and flowed to the first floor.
The source of the interruption, according to Bourque, was a corroded heating pipe. As a result, the water, heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit at its source, was dangerously hot. Residents were instructed to stay in their rooms until the system shut down and the water was removed.
“You have to be pretty careful handling this situation,” Bourque told the Eagle Times.
While the issue was contained and resolved within three hours, the most recent incident highlights the deeper dilemma currently being debated by the county delegates: whether to support a proposed approximately $ 54 million renovation project to address aging and to improve the deterioration of the infrastructure of the complex, or to risk more costly consequences by further postponement.
The multi-million dollar question
In addition to modernizing the complex’s aging heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, the county’s $ 54 million proposal would replace the 90-year-old Sanders building – the oldest building in the complex – with a modern and energy-efficient building, the one of today Tag complies with federal standards for assisted living facilities.
According to information from district officials, the construction to replace the pipes and cabling of the nursing home would be so extensive that the requirements of the federal government for compliance with the applicable standards would be triggered. These standards include requirements that every bed have a window and that the rooms have a occupant to bathroom ratio of 2: 1.
Many rooms in Stearns have four residents sharing a bathroom and only a few beds have windows. Stearns also suffers from a general lack of shared space that families with residents can visit, district officials say.
In the meantime, the 13 district delegates stand still as to whether a loan should be approved to finance the project. A tight minority of delegates, all Republican lawmakers, have proposed changing the tied amount to $ 35 million as it is believed that the proposed federal infrastructure bill may provide additional funding. The remaining delegates, all Democratic lawmakers, have expressed their reluctance to approve a bond at this point due to concerns about the tax implications of the project amid a controversial state budget cycle and economic uncertainties.
The delegation has been on hiatus since Monday 26 April after the sides were unable to vote on the issue due to a procedural block.
Meanwhile, the nursing home’s pipes continue to age
Bourque said pipe leaks and failures have become a “typical” occurrence in the Stearns building. Although the most recent incident affected the residents of Bourques the most for four years as facility directors due to its interference with the bedrooms.
Thursday’s incident also had a bigger impact, as it occurred during the night shift when maintenance personnel were not around to shut down the system immediately.
According to Bourque, as per the facility’s contingency plan, the overnight staff immediately notified the on-call staff and called the Unity Fire Department without an emergency call. The facility maintenance staff was on site at 5:25 p.m. to close the valves and had cleaned the water by 8:30 p.m.
The water also set off a fire alarm, which brought the unit’s fire department a second time.
“We should send them a thank you,” said County Commissioner Ben Nelson.
Despite the disruption to operations and residents, the event positively showed that staff are able to band together to deal with the temporary crisis, Bourque said.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback that people have generally felt very good about the reaction,” Bourque told commissioners on Monday. “[They said] It really felt like the whole building was working as a team. These are the things you would like to see, that we all get caught up in our daily problems, but when the situation comes, everyone reacts. It was a nice morale booster. “