Archive for Friday, November 25, 2011

Town Talk: Bert Nash has plans for wellness campus on VFW site; downtown holiday lighting ceremony set for tonight; city to host candy cane hunt next week

November 25, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Swing low, sweet chariot. Coming for to . . . Oh, pardon me. It is Black Friday and I’m just having a little wake for my bank account.

One group that is still in the mood to make a major purchase is the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. We reported back in July that the organization had signed an $825,000 contract to purchase the 13-acre Veterans of Foreign Wars property at 138 Alabama Street. Bert Nash was fairly quiet about its plans for the property when it confirmed the contract, but we speculated a bit that the site was meant to play a role in the vision John McGrew and his group Outside for a Better Inside has for an outdoor wellness center.

Well, now there are formal plans that confirm that. Bert Nash is seeking to rezone the 13-acre site to a hospital use. As part of the rezoning, the organization has submitted a “concept plan” that shows a 30,000-square-foot building for Bert Nash operations, plus a smaller building that would serve as a wellness center and a “Miracle Field,” which is a baseball field specially designed for individuals with disabilities. The property already has a lake, a cabin, and some walking trails. It also is adjacent to Burcham Park, which is more open space that a wellness program could use.

The project would be a major one for Bert Nash. David Johnson, president and CEO for Bert Nash, estimated the entire venture likely would cost $6 million to $8 million to complete. But he stressed the non-profit organization doesn’t have a firm timeline for the project to begin.

“I would say the actual development of the property is still a couple of years away,” Johnson said.

Any plan moving forward also would likely include some partnerships with other organizations interested in the wellness center concept, and a capital campaign by Bert Nash.

The project comes at an interesting time, though. We recently reported that Bert Nash has lost about $1.5 million worth of funding over the last four years, and that it is projecting to operate at a $200,000 loss this year. Since the spring, the organization also has cut 12 full and part-time positions through attrition. It also is projecting a $90,000 deficit for 2012.

Bert Nash is planning to use the earnings from a $1 million memorial fund to cover the payments on the new property.

Johnson said Bert Nash leaders strongly believe that the current economic struggles shouldn’t stop the organization from continuing to plan for the future.

“You can cover your head and let it beat you up, or you can invest in the future,” Johnson said. “It is our plan that we will continue to meet our mission in the community.”

Johnson also said he expects the expansion of the Medicaid program in 2014 — part of federal health care reform — will provide a boost to the organization. He said Bert Nash already treats many of the people who may become newly eligible under the Medicaid expansion, but the organization currently does so for free.

“The Medicaid expansion in 2014 will mean that a lot of the people we are providing services for free will have resources,” Johnson said. “It should make a difference in being able to maintain our mission.”

Johnson said he envisions any new Bert Nash offices built on the site would be in addition to the space the organization currently occupies in the Community Health Building at 200 Maine. The concept plan calls for an additional 30,000 square feet of office and clinical space, but Johnson said the concept plan is subject to major changes.

Planning commissioners and city commissioners ultimately will have to approve the rezoning and a specific development plan before the project can move forward. The Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the rezoning request at its January meeting.

As for the VFW operations, the club is still in operation at the location. Bert Nash has not yet closed on the property purchase — it is contingent upon the rezoning. Johnson said the VFW is looking for a new home, but he said Bert Nash has not given the club any deadline to vacate the premises.

“We’re in no hurry for them to leave,” Johnson said.

• Mark your calendars for tonight. Downtown Lawrence Inc. will host its annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony. Festivities will begin around 5:30 p.m. at Ninth and Massachusetts Street. Santa’s arrival — historically he’s had to be rescued off the roof of Weaver’s — is expected to occur at 6 p.m. And in case you are wondering about downtown’s other big holiday event, the Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade — an all horse-drawn parade — is set for 11 a.m. on Dec. 3.

• While we’re on holiday events, I’m not sure what lays a candy cane, but the city is taking a page from the Easter Bunny’s book and hosting a Candy Cane Hunt next week. The hunt will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Holcom Park Recreation Center, 2700 W. 27th St. The event is open to children six years old and younger. It will include hot chocolate and cookies, and an appearance by guests from the North Pole. There is a $2 cost for children to attend. Pre-registration is required, and can be made at any Parks and Recreation center or by calling 832-7940.


Jay Lovett 6 years, 5 months ago

Firefighters are handed 7% raises each year and get paid overtime to fetch a clown from the downtown rooftops, great use of funds. City commision has it's head on backwards. Is this why we need another 3/4 million dollar firetruck Bradford? Another example of the unions hamstringing municipalities while 'Non Essential' city workers actually work over the holidays. Spread the love Commisioners-did you have clean and safe water to drink today, did your toilet flush? Did you notice the clean parks and tastefully plotted city gardens? Those folks are denied raises and have a different OT policy so they don't make extra money during extended shifts and snow removal. Preferential treatment, the sign of the times. Heres to wishing Lawrence would wake up and take care of ALL the people that make a city work. Thanks to the unnoticed and drastically under appreciated city workers who spend this holiday serving the citizens of this town.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

I am sure they would of left the old fat guy "with a beard" hanging there if there had been a call. Great they got a chance to practice with the ladder.

I do agree that people and the commission often forget they didn't manage the work done, they managed to find good and hard workers.

I hope we all remember to tip with sustainable gifts, or at least a thank you. My post man is a doll.

I am encouraged about the Bert Nash plan. We have lost a lot of infrastructure for mental health care. For the families and the persons suffering, it is a dim glimmer in a darkening storm.

Stephanie Harris 6 years, 5 months ago

OK, so when exactly is the downtown lighting to start tonight? I've seen the time listed as 6pm here, 5:30 on the LCVB site, and 5pm on the Downtown Lawrence site.

dlidirector 6 years, 5 months ago

Sorry for the confusion, MurphyCat. Entertainment starts at 5:30. Lights go on at 6, followed by Santa's rescue.

LeRoyMercer 6 years, 5 months ago

Another great idea of Bert Nash and the incompetent leadership. Layoff your workers, give those that remain employed more and more work, no raises (even cost of living) for years, make them use their own vehicles and cut mileage payments, push and push for billable hours to the government that we taxpayers get to pay and then purchase a building that they really can't afford. Operating at a loss for years remember. Great leadership. Instead of securing additional funding streams, let's encumber ourselves above our means. From jaybird's comment, looks like the admin staff at Bert Nash took a lesson from the city.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 5 months ago

Bert Nash is planning to use the earnings from a $1 million memorial fund to cover the payments on the new property. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If they have this much money... why do they use creative accounting to hide their own money, while all the time have their greedy hands out to the taxpayer?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

"Santa’s arrival — historically he’s had to be rescued off the roof of Weaver’s — is expected to occur at 6 p.m."

I hear Santa is now part of the OWS movement.

somebodynew 6 years, 5 months ago

Whoa - - - the haters are out early (and often) this morning. Guess they didn't have anything to be thankful for, so they want to spead it around. Think I will go elsewhere for today.....

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

Regarding the Bert Nash project. The Chamber thinkers are going to USE Bert Nash as their tool for coming to the City Commission for more of OUR tax dollars.

The Chamber thinkers are thinking how can the politicians and the public say no to Bert Nash. It's a new method of extortion. This is how the Chamber got USD 497 to blow more than $20 million on the sports spending.

The Chamber enjoys duping the public out of our tax dollars anyway possible. Ethical behavior is cast aside.

Hadley_says 6 years, 5 months ago

Merrill, do you see a "Chamber conspiracy" behind everything you don't care for in town?

matahari 6 years, 5 months ago

"wellness campus" um hum ho hum...granted those DSM books are expensive and a new one published every few years, can be had on ebay for about $40 shipped> Have you seen them? One short paragraph for each malady. Of course they have to update! New drugs means a new diagnosis name.

Bert Nash=Burned cash.....why don't they make it an impatient treatment center? Oh that's right, we want all veterans with mental health problems to stay in Topeka.

pace 6 years, 5 months ago

I am praying there is a short term inpatient care facility for the mentally ill on a local level. I see less and less care facilities for chronic health problems. There should be several levels of service, It is revealing and disastrous the Gov. wants to close KNI, and move the people to local services. If he does that, many of them will die. To require every local service to provide the level of care the current population of KNI requires, will wipe out the resources of the local services and effectively strip them of being able to serve their current population. There use to be temporary inpatient rooms for the mentally ill, Now there isn't. Thank god, the Health Care reform bill will restore some of the medical infrastructure currently being destroyed. Destruction of infrastructure rather than taxing the wealthiest a fair tax, doesn't save money, it makes for desperate people and families and fat portfolios for the wealthiest. So seeing hope for continued and rebuilding of Bert Nash services sounds good to me.

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