Council decides that talking with Aurora Healthcare about Grand Avenue clinic will help determine facility’s future
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday agreed to begin negotiations with Aurora Healthcare to acquire its clinic on the far west side of the city for a senior center.
But aldermen stressed that the negotiations are only a first step meant to determine how plausible a move to the site may be.
“This is like data gathering,” Ald. Dan Becker said. “This is just sitting down and getting the ball rolling. This is a long ways from happening.”
Ald. Bill Driscoll, a member of the Commission on Aging, said that the negotiations will determine whether it’s realistic to consider acquiring the clinic at 1777 W. Grand Ave. or if the city needs to look elsewhere.
“We want to be able to move forward to see if there are any possibilities there,” he said. “I do think it makes sense to at least investigate this.”
But Ald. Doug Biggs, noting that the facility acquisition and renovations could cost $1 million, questioned whether this is the right time to negotiate.
“Where’s that money coming from?” he asked. “Isn’t it disingenuous to negotiate with someone if you don’t have any funding sources?
“From a fiscal responsibility standpoint, I have real concern about negotiating without anything in my pocket.”
The city, he noted, has said it doesn’t want to be responsible for building a senior center.
The Commission on Aging and its ad-hoc committee have discussed fundraising, Senior Center Director Catherine Kiener said.
“You can’t go out and ask for money without knowing what it’s going to be used for,” she said. “We know funds are tight. We want the city to partner with us.”
Beginning negotiations can only help further the fundraising, Ald. Dave Larson said.
“If we don’t have anything to shoot for, it’s much more difficult,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with opening the door and seeing where it leads us. We need to keep our options open.”
The commission and committee have begun to identify potential grants for the senior center, Kiener said.
Many grants are only available to communities, Driscoll noted.
In addition, a survey about the senior center revealed that many people are willing to contribute to the purchase, she noted. They’ve already received a small donation that will be used by the Friends of the Senior Center to open an account for the capital campaign.
The survey was done last year after the city said it would not extend the lease for the current senior center at 403 W. Foster St. beyond June 2017.
The city made its decision based on the cost of the lease and the fact that numerous seniors said they are dissatisfied with the current center building, saying the parking is inconvenient and there are too many steps in the building.
The idea of buying the medical clinic for a senior or community center was endorsed by a number of residents at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I know there are people in the area of Port Washington who do not come to the center because of its location and the parking,” said Tim Lewein, a member of the senior center board.
“This would be a welcoming type of building for everyone,” added center board member Mary Niedermeyer.
The clinic seems to best meet all the center’s needs, several members of the Commission on Aging and ad hoc committee told officials.
It has between 12,000 and 15,000 square feet of usable space on one floor, is handicapped accessible and has plenty of parking.
The layout is conducive to a center, with a reception area at the entrance, and the entire building is wired for technology, a plus in today’s digital world, they said.
It is next to city-owned land that is slated for a ball park, making it an ideal site for a multi-generational facility.
“That’s a vision worth at least pursuing,” Commission on Aging Chairman David Owens said.
Several aldermen said they, too, like the location.
“I think the possibilities are tremendous,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich said. “I like the location. I think moving forward with baby steps is good.”
“We need to keep our options open,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “I do not want to close the door on anything.”