In the community, Local government

State firewall mandate stalls progress on upgrade work at Pioneer Place

VALE – Three months ago officials and supporters of Pioneer Place went before the Malheur County Court with a request – give us $1.1 million to help fund repairs and a new roof for the facility.
The court didn’t agree to give out a dime. Instead, members of the court – Judge Dan Joyce and Commissioners Jim Mendiola and Ron Jacobs – asked a number of probing questions and finally delegated Mendiola to meet with Pioneer Place officials to review pricing on repair projects. Mendiola was on hand in the fall when Pioneer Place officials examined the roof in preparation for going out for a bid.
The county – which is sitting on more than $10 million in extra federal funds – still hasn’t handed out a cent but some progress regarding bids for repair projects has been made while the facility itself is on slightly firmer financial footing. Yet an unexpected mandate delivered by the state in October has derailed those proposed repair projects.
Pioneer Place faced funding woes for years and in August a public meeting – which attracted more than 200 people to the Vale Senior Center – was held to gather feedback from residents as the facility faced closure.
In September, Pioneer Place officials told the county court $400,000 was needed for a new roof, $300,000 for 10 new rooftop air conditioners while $100,000 was necessary to remodel shower rooms and $87,000 needed to replace a sewer system.
After the September county court meeting, Pioneer Place officials began to prioritize needed repairs but faced a new challenge when an annual survey by the Oregon Department of Human Services last autumn showed the fire wall at the facility needed to be replaced.
“Our current priority is the fire wall between the two parts of the facility,” said John Nalivka, Pioneer board member.
Pioneer Place is split between an assisted living section and a skilled nursing – or nursing home – side. The fire wall separates the two sections.
Nalivka said when the skilled nursing portion of the facility was built in 2002, the fire wall met state code.
Now, he said, the Pioneer Place Board is searching for an engineer to evaluate the fire wall and deliver a cost estimate to replace it.
“It could be a pretty big chunk of money,” said Nalivka.
The fire wall challenge put all the other potential repair projects on hold, said Corey Crismon, Pioneer Place administrator.
“We are waiting to see how much it will be,” he said.
He said the new mandate from the state on the fire wall caught him off guard.
“It’s been 23 years since this was licensed as a nursing and long-term care facility and then out of the blue we don’t have the right wall separating them. It went through 17 surveys and no one said anything until this year,” he said.
Crismon said Pioneer Place received bids on the roof, air conditioners and to replace a portion of the septic system.
He said the Ontario Roofing & Construction Co Inc bid for a new roof came in at about $300,000 – $100,000 less than first estimated.
American Rooter & Drain placed a bid for the sewer system at $89,000 while McCrea Heating & Plumbing delivered a price of $136,000 to replace the air conditioners on the roof.
Crismon said he is still seeking other bids.
Nalivka said Pioneer Place officials will go back to the county with another funding request after they find out what a new fire wall will cost.
“We want to see if we can meet the fire safety requirements with it costing less but I would say it absolutely will involve the county,” he said.
He said when officials go before the count court again they will ask for the same amount – $1.1 million – they sought in September.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

Crowd packs Pioneer Place session, hears of ideas to save operation from closure

Pioneer Place faces tough questioning from commissioners over $1.1 million ask

Pioneer Place plan will expand health district to gain more property tax revenue

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