Benzie County’s Skilled Nursing Facility Faces Growing List of Repairs

"We’re just going to have to bite the bullet and bear a lot of this expense."

Maintenance and repair problems continue at a Benzie County nursing home. Maples Repairs Web Image1

The Maples is a county-owned skilled nursing facility in Frankfort. It’s been in operation since the 1960’s, but plans launched in 2010 for a new facility.

It was built next to the original Maples, with the plan to use both buildings. The county held the groundbreaking in 2013, but construction delays including a faulty roof delayed the actual move-in until 2016. Since then, staff at the Maples have had continuing issues in different parts of both the new building and the original structure.

Kathy Dube is the Administrator at the Maples. “Even though they built us a brand new building, a lot of our main areas are still 50 years old.”

With two separate wings, both the old and new buildings are facing a list of maintenance and repair issues. “The portion of the building that is still existing contains the guts of the facility. It’s still the old mechanical room, we have 50 year old boilers, it is still the laundry room of which a number of those machines are pushing the age limit.”

Dube says just replacing the boilers could cost up to $150,000. Laundry room dryers are already replaced but washers are on the fritz, and the main kitchen still uses all the original equipment.

Dave Burley is the Maintenance Supervisor. He says, “The equipment is 50, give or take 55 years old probably. Obviously it’s outlived its life expectancy. It’s still functional.”

Dube adds, “I don’t want to blame people for it but a lot of it started before we had anything to do with it.” She cites decisions that were made about construction, interior design, and mechanical and electrical work for the new building.

The new building, open in 2016, came with its share of problems. A two-year delay for moving in was just one of them. Dube says, “By the time we got into the building the warranties were off of all of the equipment. Because it sat dormant for over two years before we even used them.”

Maples Repairs Web Image2She’s referring to the latest problem: the four new dishwashers that leak, and have damaged wooden cabinets in four separate kitchens. “We paid thousands of dollars to keep repairing the dishwashers. We are now to the point where we’re just going to replace them.” That’s another $125,000 to replace appliances and cabinets.

“It’s pretty much a daily thing. There’s always something that we have that’s malfunctioning or should not have been put in this building to begin with,” Dube says.

The new building also came with a new backup power generator, but for some reason it wasn’t wired to support the entire facility. “We have a generator in the back that is big enough to light all of Frankfort, and (only) 13% of our building is on the generator. When the power goes out in Frankfort we have no lights in the bathrooms in the resident rooms.” Maples Repairs Web Image3

And now the old half of the building is due for a new roof. It may seem like an overwhelming list, but figuring out who pays for repairs and maintenance at the county-owned facility is also overwhelming.

Burley says, “It’s just basic upkeep of what you’d expect for a 55-year-old building. We’ve got a lot on our plate but we’ll get through it.”

Dube says the inconveniences don’t impact day-to-day operations. “We are still a five-star facility and have been for the last couple of years. We are running about 95% occupancy. What we’ve been dealing with has no impact on our residents, still taking care of them the best that we can.”

The administrator says the 2010 millage approved by voters allows for maintenance and equipment replacement, but there’s disagreement at the county level over what the money will be used for.  In the meantime, Dube says, “We are making the changes. One way or the other the changes will get made. The facility is absorbing a lot of the cost.”

9&10 News reached out to several members of the County Commission and the Building Authority, but they were not available to comment.