Former McGirr’s Nursing Home poised for new life
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 12,2013
BELLOWS FALLS – A Hartland woman who runs a residential care facility in Richmond hopes to open a similar facility at the former McGirr’s Nursing Home.
Nanc Bourne outlined her plans to the Rockingham Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment earlier this week.
Bourne, the executive director of the Sterling House at Richmond, said after the meeting she hoped to complete the purchase of the former nursing home shortly. Bourne said she planned to reduce the number of beds in the facility from 30 to 20, and have lower levels of staffing than the nursing home.
Margaret Perry, the owner and former operator of the nursing home, said Friday she felt the change of McGirr’s from nursing home to a residential care facility would benefit the community. She said she had been afraid there wouldn’t be a second life for the nursing home.
“I’m happy it’s still going to be elder care and it will provide a similar service because it could never be a nursing home again,” she said of the rambling structure.
“It has an elevator and all the institutional bells and whistles,” she said, noting that Bourne had plans for adding more bathrooms.
Perry said she believed some of the former McGirr’s residents, whose health has improved in the past nine months, may return to the new facility.
Perry said the closing on the sale is slated for Monday. “She is ready to start construction. Since we started talking, she’s been planning her renovation. I think she hopes to open in two to three months.”
Perry was forced to close McGirr’s last April after a protracted dispute with federal and state regulators over alleged violations. Most of the problems stemmed from a disabled and mentally ill resident Perry admitted in September 2011 as a favor to state regulators.
“I think it’s a great use of a big old building,” said Perry, who has maintained ownership of two buildings immediately adjacent to McGirr’s, which as been an inn and a two-family home. The building was built in 1897, Perry said.
Perry said she didn’t believe the new, but similar, operation would disrupt the neighborhood. “And there will be jobs,” said Perry, who owns and operates Hill House Preschool and Daycare Center right next door.
Only one neighbor who attended the zoning and planning board meeting raised any concerns about Bourne’s plans. Ron Massucco, who lives across Atkinson Street from the former nursing home, said he was concerned about traffic at the home, specifically parking on Atkinson Street by commercial vehicles.
Bourne said trucks making deliveries would unload in the home’s driveway.
The planning commission and zoning board took the Bourne/McGirr’s request under advisement.
Perry, contacted after the meeting, said she had met Bourne through the Vermont Health Care Association. She said Bourne had also been involved in running Brookwood Home in North Springfield and the Davis Home in Windsor.
Perry said she believed Bourne would be changing the name of the facility.
Perry said she was still having difficulty tying up the loose ends associated with McGirr’s, which had been in her family since 1966.
She said she had recently been hit with a $150,000 fine from the federal government for not submitting expense reports after she closed her facility. Perry said she thought she only had to meet the annual deadline.
She said she is also facing $36,000 in fines and interest from the state for failing to turn in her state license. She said she paid $12,000 a month in state licensing fees, but she was still being charged because she hadn’t returned her license to the state.
The state and the federal government were both well aware of the closing of McGirr’s, she said.
If the fines and fees aren’t mitigated, she said, she will likely have to declare bankruptcy.
“I will scream for mercy before I file for bankruptcy,” she said.