by HANNAH BROADBENT
Last Friday, June 9, Elim Care in Watertown was officially closed. Carver County News found out about the closure by hearing this automated message over the phone, “The Elim Watertown home is in the process of closing. All residents have been discharged to other locations. The building will be closed over the weekend and will reopen on Monday during regular business hours.”
The closure came almost two weeks earlier than the expected date of June 24 and a little over a month since the announcement.
Elim Care CEO Bob Dahl said the last resident moved out the first Friday in June. Dahl said the closing went exceptionally well and smooth.
“The families and staff of the residents were so helpful,” he said.
Dahl said it was relatively easy finding homes for the residents. He said they knew the census was low in surrounding areas but the closing still came faster than anticipated. Dahl also credits their 5 month preparation for the success in closing
“In the end it paid off very well and made the process very smooth,” he said.
According to Dahl the last few steps for Elim is to secure the building and finish any last business with the employees. Dahl said about 20 percent of the 100 staff relocated to other Elim homes in the area and as for the rest of the staff, the vast majority is employed at other care facilities he said.
As far as the future of the property, Dahl doesn’t know yet what price they will be asking for it. The property as a whole is worth $3.5 million, but Dahl knows that is not a realistic asking price.
“We don’t know what a potential buyer will do with it,” he said. “They’ll have to have a creative vision for the remodel.”
The City of Watertown and the Economic Business Authority have both said they will not be interested in buying the property. Though they have shown full support for Elim and in helping find the right buyer for the property.
The Thursday before the closing a celebration was held with city officials, representatives and staff. Dahl said it was bitter-sweet for everyone there. He says he is aware the hole Elim is leaving in the city.
“It’s difficult to close on an operation you have had for 50 years,” he said.
Elim Care was open in Watertown for 50 years, thanks to a grateful community.
At the time of the announcement there were 31 residents in the 55 bed home.
“It’s been a slow, continuous decline,” Dahl said.
According to Dahl, the drop in residents has been a 5 year-trend. The home has been able to take beds out of service to make private rooms for the existing residents.
Dahl contributed alternative care options and the younger population of Watertown contributes to the lack of residents.
“Fewer seniors are utilizing the services of a skilled nursing facility, preferring less institutional alternatives like assisted living or housing services,” Dahl said.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 the number of “home health agencies” in the country were 12,400; “nursing home” providers were 15,600; and there were 30,200 “residential care communities.”
“The preferred options are to stay at home, and more people are able to do that with the assistance of personal care attendants and support from a home health care agency,” Dahl said.
There are around 20 facilities in Carver County that either identify as retirement homes or assisted living facilities. The Elim home in Watertown is the only one that identifies as a nursing home.
A few senior living options are close, with two in Waconia and another two in Delano.
“I’ve heard people express envy of facilities in Waconia or Delano,” Washburn said. “They’re more modern.”
The City of Watertown and the EDA both say they will not be buying the property. The City Administrator Shane Fineran and the EDA members said perhaps if Elim offered it to them for the right price they’d be happy to purchase the property.
The 3.6 acre land is worth around $144k and the building is about $3.4 million.
“We’re not looking into buying until someone has a viable option,” said EDA President Ken Grotbo.
“Elim is going to be prohibited until someone has a vision,” added the Community Development Director Mark Kalsas at an EDA meeting.
Fineran said the property can be rezoned and reused for anything. The EDA liked the idea of commercial or retail space for the plot saying it has ideal access being right off of Highway 25.
For now, the city is doing what they can to attract a third party and are still talking to Prairie River Senior Living about the 65 bed home downtown according to city council member Lindsay Guetzkow.
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