After several months of frustrating delays, work has finally begun on a new 110 bed nursing facility in the city of Rhinelander.
Senior officials with the Rennes group were on hand Tuesday to take part in an official ground breaking ceremony for the skilled nursing facility/assisted living project. According to Tom Altmann, the Vice President of Altmann Construction, the company serving as the general contractor on the project, Rennes has given his company one year from “when the first shovel hit the dirt” to have the bulk of the project completed. Work began on the site in early January, and Rennes officials are anticipating being able to move into the completed facility in January 2013.
“We’re very excited about his project,” Chuck Hawkins, Rennes Executive Vice President, said Tuesday. “We are looking forward to being a big part of the Rhinelander community.”
In September 2010, Rennes Group acquired the Lillian Kerr Healthcare Center in Phelps from Aspirus Clinic. Rennes officials announced soon after their intention to close the 64-bed nursing home overlooking North Twin Lake north of Eagle River. According to Hawkins, the move of the company’s resources to Rhinelander makes sense on several levels.
“Look at where this facility will be situated,” said Hawkins, pointing to the intersection of Navajo Street at the Hwy. 17 bypass. “From a geographic and demographic viewpoint, Rhinelander makes a lot of sense for us. Rhinelander is a growing medical hub, and this facility is going to be in a prime location for that growth.”
Hawkins pointed out both Rhinelander’s variety of medical options and the large base of elderly residents living in and around the city as further reasoning behind the decision.
“Rhinelander has a hospital and several well-thought-of clinics located within a mile of each other,” said Hawkins. “When we look at our expansion opportunities, certainly convenience for residents and their families plays a huge part.”
Rennes continues to run the Lillian Kerr Center. All residents and employees currently working at the Phelps facility will be welcome at the new Rhinelander facility once it opens. There are currently about 80 people employed at the Phelps facility, but because of the Rhinelander location’s larger facility and additional service options, the facility will offer up to 120 new jobs.
The new facility will have 64 beds for skilled nursing care patients, 35 beds for those who need assisted living and another 10 beds for other uses.
Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns, on hand Tuesday to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony, said he was especially pleased to see work started on the multi-million dollar project.
“This community needs this right now,” said Johns. “The Rennes Group is bringing a top notch facility to Rhinelander, and a lot of new jobs to boot. In this economy, the fact that a company has chosen not only to expand, but expand substantially here in the Northwoods, is a big deal.”
Rennes Group, based in Peshtigo, entered the senior services industry in 1972. The company currently operates five skilled rehabilitation centers and five assisted living facilities in Peshtigo, Appleton, DePere, Marinette, Weston and Wisconsin Rapids, in addition to Phelps, employing more than 1,100 healthcare workers.
“We’re definitely looking to have a substantial presence in the Rhinelander community,” said Hawkins. “This expansion is very exciting for us as a company, and we are looking forward to seeing the project completed and getting moved in.”
The City of Rhinelander will assist in the construction by agreeing to extend Navajo Street and install related city utilities for the facility. Those plans include the installation of public sewer, a lift station and a looped water distribution system. The street will be approximately 320 feet long with 800 feet of force main and 1,800 feet of loop water main.
Johns said that, while the Rennes project is the only large building project of note currently underway in Rhinelander, he anticipates more announcements coming out in the coming months.
“There is a lot of interest in Rhinelander right now,” said Johns. “Projects like this are such a great thing for this community. I think we’ll be hearing about more of them soon.”