The $50.9 million the District of Muskoka has set aside over the next four years for the redevelopment of Huntsville’s Fairvern Nursing Home is costly, but its Chief Administrative Officer Julie Stevens says it’s necessary.

District council passed an amendment in February to amend the 2021 budget and up the money being set aside for the project. 

It was announced Tuesday that the project will be going forward on land donated by the Cockwell and Doughty families. The home will move from its current location at 14 Mill Street to its new building on Centre Street. Stevens says the new location will give its residents more opportunities to interact with the community around them. 

“From the perspective of long-term care, it no longer meets the requirements for a long-term care home,” Stevens says of the current building Fairvern occupies. The province and Ministry of Health own the building, so Stevens explains it operates under the guidelines established by the ministry. “This one is at end of life purposes of infection prevention and control,” she goes on to say, adding that’s why they’re redeveloping it.

The new building will include an additional 64 beds, for a total of 160. “The new build is so much bigger than (the old building),” Stevens says.

“After careful assessment of the proposed donated site and comparison to other properties available for the project, we are confident this future site will meet the expanded needs of the larger resident home in the most cost-effective manner,” District Chair John Klinck said Tuesday about the new location.

Construction is expected to get underway in 2023, but before that happens a contractor needs to be chosen. Stevens says council will likely choose one in mid to late 2022. The building will be operational by 2025, pending any delays. The immediate next steps, according to Stevens, involve finalizing and signing the donation agreement, getting planning approval and working on the site plans and supporting studies. 

In the meantime, Stevens reassures Fairvern’s current residents that the current building will be taken care of until the transition is done. District council approved a $900,000 loan in August that will be used to repair the heating, cooling and HVAC systems in the long-term care home. District officials said Tuesday the projects will “ensure the continued safe and efficient operation of the current home until the new home is completed.”

Since the building on Mill Street isn’t owned by the district, it isn’t up to them to decide what happens to it. “I’m sure as part of our transition we’ll talk to the ministry about that,” Stevens says. In the very early planning stages of the redevelopment project, no decisions have been made on what to do with it. 

The district is hosting an information session on a yet-to-be-announced date in October to go over the project with the public in more detail.