Plans for new care center is start of a ‘new era’ for Akron

Architect Terry Glade discusses plans for the new Akron Care Center, the construction of which is set to begin this spring. The $6 million project will be located on Highway 3, across from the Akron Fire Station. (Photos by Travis Gulbrandson)

AKRON, Iowa It was standing room only at the Akron Fire Station in Akron, Iowa, last week when area residents gathered for the official unveiling of the plans for the new Akron Care Center.

Its a very happy day for us, said Akron Mayor Harold Higman. Today marks the beginning of kind of a new era for Akron, as we take care of a much-needed group in our community.

Construction on the city-owned $6 million facility is set to begin in the spring. The completed care center will be located across from the fire station on Highway 3.

Project architect Terry Glade of Sioux Citys Cannon Moss Brygger Architects said the care center will be divided into two separate pods, or neighborhoods, with a common area joining them.

Each of them has their own little dining area and living room and activity area, and each of the residents has their own bathroom, with the exception of the two-bedroom ones on the corners, Glade said. Its more dignified for the residents. Its easier for the staff.

In gathering ideas for the design of the facility, area residents traveled to existing care centers throughout the area, going as far as Chamberlain.

That group was able to come back and build what we thought was probably the best base for this care center, Higman said.

Glade added that nursing homes and retirement facilities have had the same look for the past 40 years, and that Akron is doing well by wanting theirs to have a homier feel.

I think youre very progressive in that youre gong for something better, he said. This is what people want to live in. You dont want to get older and all of a sudden lose your dignity and your nice home. You want to continue living as youve lived before. And thats really what were after.

Finance committee member Marlys Johnson said a study regarding resource and financial feasibility has been completed, which will be used in a three-component capital campaign that will run for the next 10 months.

The first component is the land on which the facility will be built. The land was donated for use by John and Mary Lucken. The Luckens also have donated a house to the project, the sale of which will bring more money to the project and makes up the second component of the campaign.

Located on 9th Street in Akron, Johnson said, Its a 4,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home, with a newly-remodeled kitchen and bathroom.

The final component of the campaign is a grain train, for which area farmers have donated bushels of grain to be sold for the building fund.

We are hoping that everyone will look at this as a multi-year campaign and that you will consider making pledges for three to five years, Johnson said. We also will be contacting in the future all of our service providers, as well as people who have a vested interest in our community. They have a vested interest in seeing that their community does grow and thrive.

The current Akron Care Center was built as a hospital in 1951. It failed a recent state inspection, and was given until August 2013 to have a number of elements brought up to code, including the width of doors and leaking windows. A sprinkler system also needs to be installed.

Care Center administrator Gail Olson said it would cost as much to upgrade the old building as it would be to construct a new facility.

On an ongoing basis, were spending money constantly to fix the heating system, the air conditioning system and the water system, she said. The plumbing is bad, the electric is bad and the windows are bad. In the older parts, some of our residents are four persons to a bathroom, and thats really not acceptable in this day and age.

Simply repairing the old building would cause another problem, as well, Higman said.

It would simply mean that we would have to let all of our residents go they would have to find another place, he said. We would have to lay off our staff. And it would probably take a year to go through the building and remodel it.

At the end of that period, youre still going to have an old building thats going to give you trouble down the road. We know that, he said.

Olson said the new facility will be better for everyone.

It will be much more efficient for staff to use. We will not be on three floors, she said.

Higman said it will have a positive economic impact on Akron, too.

There are 55 people working (at the current facility), he said. I use the comparison of, if a company came to us today and said, Hey, wed like to come to your community and employ 55 people. What can you do for us? We would jump through all kinds of hoops, obviously.

Well, here, we already have 55 people working in this community, having good jobs, so we want to retain that, he said.

Glade said he hopes the completed care center will be something from which the entire community can benefit. It could be a place where local clubs meet and family reunions are held, he said.

What were really after is a variety of different spaces where people can meet and interact, he said. Its a much wider footprint than you would have in a normal, old-fashioned nursing home. Your residents are going to be so much happier, and I think you as a city are going to be so much happier.

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