After eight years of planning and setbacks, The Mid-Columbia Center for Living is getting started on its community mental health facility at 1040 Webber Street in The Dalles.
The facility will allow all the center’s services to operate under one roof.
The architectural design is a wood-framed two-story family clinic, parking and green space totalling about 22,639 square feet.
Activity and group rooms will be on the first floor, as well as a clinic and lobby, offices and a conference room.
The second floor will theoretically house space for youth group, a lobby, meeting rooms, and room for another clinic or office.
The planned facility can accomodate an occupancy of nearly 600 people.
The plan was submitted by Griffin Construction, LLC., the company contracted for the project.
The center provides integrated physical and behavioral health services for people with mental illness, substance abuse and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The center currently serves over 2,000 adults, children and families across locations in The Dalles, Moro and Hood River.
“People living with persistent mental health and substance abuse issues die anywhere from 25-35 years earlier than the general population. Many of the clients we serve also struggle with chronic health conditions and have difficulty getting to regular physical health appointments. Providing wraparound mental health and primary care [enables] us to treat ‘the whole’ person and ultimately help to extend peoples’ lives” Barbara Seatter., executive director for the center told the Chronicle earlier.
Representatives from Center for Living’s community partners gave speeches at the May 22 ground breaking.
Ethel Marquez, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs who has been an employee at the center for 14 years and counting, blessed the construction site before the ground was officially broken.
“I thought it was appropriate to do a smudge blessing, which is for blessing the earth that this building is going to be built on,” she said.
The groundbreaking was seen as a big triumph for the center and its community partners because numerous setbacks have held up the project for years.
The center first discussed the prospect of a new community mental health facility with architects in 2010, but the idea had been in place for a long time before that, Seatter said.
County commissioner and MCCFL board member Scott Hege asked all center employees in the small crowd of 30 or so gathered for the groundbreaking to raise their hands. A large portion did. Then, he said “if you thought this project was never going to happen, keep your hands up,” and many laughed but kept their hands raised high.
Construction on the new facility was expected to start two years ago.
Wasco County had received $2 million for the new facility in 2015 from a Community Development Block Grant, a federal program that provides resources to local governments to address a range of community development needs, such as affordable housing or infrastructure that creates jobs.
Since this grant can only be awarded to government agencies, Wasco County applied on the center’s behalf. As the grant recipient, the county officially owns the new facility for the first five years of the project.
The county was initially reluctant to take on the responsibility of providing resources for this facility, Hege said at the groundbreaking, but said “at the end of the day, we all believe this is going to be a very important facility and it’s going to really help move us forward to provide better mental health services for the county.”
With funding secured, all center officials had to do before construction could begin was go through a process called environmental review, a formal process for determining the environmental impacts of a project before it’s started. The center already owned the build site, having purchased the land for it back in 2012, and expected to start construction of the new facility August 2016.
However, the environmental review process took significantly longer than expected since the center “had to follow new and complex environmental impact rules,” Seatter said.
The longer the project was on hold, the more expensive it became to start. Construction expenses increased at the end of the recession and severe weather issues nationwide increased the cost of building materials. The price quickly exceeded the project’s original budget, so the center had to secure more funding, extending the delay. The final budget exceeded the original by over $2 million, Seatter said.
The center planned on securing another $2.25 million in loans from U.S. Bank and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. (GOBHI), with U.S. Bank as the primary lender. Center for Living would pay any remaining costs directly from their own reserve funds.
Wasco County began the bidding process to hire a contractor in February 2017 and intended to hire a contractor mid-October of that year; however, the contract was cancelled and refigured to deal with budget issues, forcing the county to start the process over again and extending the project another five to six months.
The construction contract was eventually awarded to Griffin Construction LLC., who issued the lowest bid at $6,409,000. Griffin previously worked with the center on remodeling the second floor of their Hood River location. “We’re glad that they won the lowest bid not once, but twice,” Seatter said.
A contract between Griffin Construction, represented by Sam Griffin, and Wasco County, represented by administrator Tyler Stone, was approved in April. Scott|Edwards Architecture, LLP. is the architect, WDY Inc. is both the civil and structural engineer, Shapiro Didway Landscape Architecture is the landscape architect, and Interface Engineering will handle all the mechanical, plumbing and electric engineering.
“Everything was going according to the plan and the contract for construction was signed,” said county finance director Mike Middleton in a written statement.
But that would’ve been too easy.
“The week prior to construction starting, the U.S. Bank loan approval was rescinded, putting the project in jeopardy,” he said.
Since the county was still the building owner under the terms of the block grant and would have been responsible for repaying the grant amount should the building not meet its intended use—and since the facility couldn’t meet that intended use if it didn’t exist—Wasco County proposed to fund the remainder of the project costs, up to $2.25 million, at the same terms U.S. Bank negotiated. Center for Living will still pay any remaining costs directly and the $750,000 from GOBHI would only be used if needed.
“Center for Living is the mental health authority for Wasco County and as such we are ultimately responsible for some of these services,” said Middleton in a written statement advocating for the loan.
Middleton recommended the money come from the Capital Acquisitions Fund, which currently has a cash balance of over $3.1 million.
The county board approved a proposal at its May 17 meeting to loan the center money during its construction period at the standard 4.5 percent interest rate. At this rate, the county will have received about $1 million in interest payments by the time the loan is paid off in 2028, Middleton said.
MCCFL will begin paying back the loan at the end of the facility’s estimated nine-month building period, March 2019. Assuming the county loans the maximum $2.25 million, the center then will make a one-time balloon payment of $1,375,368.69 and begin monthly payments of $14,234.61.
Though the loan is estimated to be paid back by March 2028, the county will amortize, or distribute, the repaid funds over 20 years.
“[Wasco County] has really come through at the 11th hour,” Seatter said at the groundbreaking.
Before the ground was officially broken, she took a moment to thank the community for their support and patience. “You can’t just go in and see one of us and get a band-aid…it’s complicated and sometimes it takes years for people to get the help they need to recover, and we want to be here for those people,” she said.
Title: Work Begins on Mental Health Complex
Posted By: The Dalles Chronicle
Author: Emily Fitzgerald
Date: May 29, 2018
Link: Original Article