Wooster Council OKs sale of bonds for West View expansion

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WOOSTER, Ohio — Expect to see the dirt flying within the next month at West View Healthy Living.

Wooster City Council on Monday voted unanimously to authorize the issuance and sale of up to $20 million in health care facilities revenue bonds that will allow West View to expand its Mechanicsburg Road facility.

The move comes at no risk to the city and will in no way affect its own borrowing power, according to bond counsel Kip Wahlers of Ice Miller in Columbus. Instead, the tax-free bonds will be purchased by the Chicago-based First Midwest Bank and will allow West View to pay off debt incurred for projects in 1996 and 2003, while also providing financing for a nearly 34,000-square-foot addition with 20 skilled nursing units and 15 independent living units, as well as a 24,600-square-foot single-story wellness and events center that will be open to the public.

Health care facilities revenue bonds are made possible to nonprofit entities like West View, according to Margo Broehl, who represents the care facility, and the city's only role as a conduit is "to speak to the validity of the project" to meet a federal requirement.

In this case, the word "hospital," which appears in the legislation, points to West View's role as a long-term care nursing facility, Broehl said, clarifying "this is not a competition with our wonderful hospital." In fact, she noted, many of West View's nursing care clients come to the facility on the recommendation of Wooster Community Hospital.

West View tore down a building a few years ago, so the new project will not mean additional beds, but more room for the beds its has had.

In its 57 years in the Wooster area, West View has never asked a resident to leave due to inability to pay, according to board member Don Battershell, who attended the meeting with four other board members to support the bond issue. Yet, he said, between the years 2016 and 2018, the facility provided "$3.3 million of free service to people who have run out of money."

The board has done its due diligence, he said, planning for seven years for the expansion and having two marketing studies completed to show the need for it exists. In addition, he said, $2 million already has been invested in just the planning and design process, so "we're all in. ... This is something we've worked very hard for. Nothing is for show. Everything is for the well-being of the residents who are there."

The project, which had a groundbreaking in November, has gone as far as it can without the money that will come through the bond sale. The board chose Simonson Construction of Ashland to lead the project, based in part, Battershell said, on the work the company did on the reconstruction of the northeast quadrant of Public Square.

"Six Wooster suppliers are waiting for me to cut a check, waiting for a purchase order," Battershell said. "Give us a chance and we'll show you what we can do with the proper support."

The project, which last year was approved by the Wooster Planning Commission, "will certainly take us into the next 30 to 40 years," he told council members. And if the loan closing goes through on July 11 as scheduled, he said, "on July 12, you'll see dirt flying."

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