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Mansfield assisted living facility faces setbacks

By Tyler Morrissey
On December 3, 2012

  • The Mansfield Town Council, pictured above, has a new project to focus on. the assisted living facility Masonicare. The project was held up by a lack of water in the area, but is carrying on.

Masonicare, an assisted living facility for the elderly, is still facing difficulties getting water and can't begin a time table for construction in Mansfield until this issue is solved.
Senior Vice President of Masonicare, Jon-Paul Venoit, addressed the Mansfield Town Council back in September where he told the town council that the lack of water in the area is what's holding up the building process; however, his company is still going to proceed with the project in Mansfield. As of today, not much has changed since that September town council meeting, and the company is now focusing on what other services Masonicare can bring to the town.
"Very little has changed since that meeting," said Venoit. "We are obviously still waiting to see when the timeline if at all as to when the waters coming. I think the other piece we are working on is to see what other services we can bring to Mansfield, whether it be some of our homecare or other homemaking and companionship services through Masonicare."
UConn's stance on this project is still the same, according to Venoit. This comes after a recent Environmental Impact Evaluation of UConn's additional sources of water. UConn is proposing to extend a source of drinking water to Mansfield and Storrs. The purposes of this proposed project are to maintain safe drinking water for the university, supply water for future UConn projects and to meet water demand in northern Mansfield.
Mansfield has been a very attractive location for the project, due in part to its proximity to UConn. Vice President for Marketing and Communications of Masonicare, Margaret Steeves said that area has a lot of amenities that seniors are looking for when they decide to retire.
"I think the proximity of the campus is really an allure for the potential residents of such a community," said Steeves. "There's a whole demographic especially with the aging baby boomers that they want to be near a college campus with all the amenities that are there."
Masonicare is continuing to work closely with Mansfield to move process forward so a time table can be set up as to when development of the 40 acre site will begin. According to Venoit, Masonicare has had multiple discussions with town officials, particularly with the planning and zoning department and the town is still on board with the project.
"We have had discussions with planning and zoning but ultimately until we kind of know when this water is going to be available, I think that's when we can develop our timeline as to when we can break ground," said Venoit. "Until we know that piece, we can't really do anything. I think the town of Mansfield and UConn is interested in getting more water, so the question now is just, when it will be coming."
According to Director of Human Services for Mansfield, Kevin Grunwald, finding an adequate water source is key for the development of this project. The first step in the project was choosing which company would indeed be awarded the developing contract. After a committee reviewed the proposals, it was determined that Masonicare would be the preferred company.
"We had a process where we sent out a request for proposals and we had a committee that worked on that," said Grunwald. "We received proposals reviewed them and based on those, we recommended Masonicare as a preferred developer for the town of Mansfield."
Venoit also said that the town has been very helpful and cooperative with Masonicare and their search for a water source in Mansfield. According to Venoit, there is water in other areas of town but the location of those water sources will not sustain a facility.
"The town was really the one that saw the need for this project," said Venoit. "We also see a need in that area as well. The struggle has always really been the lack of water in that area. There are some other areas in the town where there is water, but they're not situated for something that we were looking to build."
According to census figures from 2010, in Storrs 4.5 percent of the population is over the age of 65. Venoit believes that the Mansfield area currently does not have the appropriate number of facilities that would deliver the type of care and specialization that Masonicare would deliver.
"We did a market study many years ago that looked at that whole geographical area and it did look like there was demand for this type of product," said Venoit. "There are some other areas where it is saturated where we wouldn't do this, but this particular area there is not much currently there for this type of service."
Masonicare is not just looking to build a community for senior citizens to live in but they are also looking to bring their homemaking and companion services to Mansfield. According to Steeves, many older patients in the hospital require more care once they are released back home, and Masonicare would be equipped to handle the demand for this service in Mansfield.
In addition to care from visiting nurses, Masonicare's companion service would assist senior citizens in various daily activities such as bathing, taking medicine and meal preparation, according to Steeves. "Home healthcare is more clinical visiting nurses and so forth after surgery or hospitalization, whereas companion services are more just helping you with activities of daily living," said Steeves.
Masonicare is not the only facility that hopes to bring these types of services to Mansfield. According to Venoit, another firm was looking at the area, but they have not been as aggressive in trying to establish themselves in the town. Grunwald said that the committee chose Masonicare over the other firms due to Masonicare's history in Connecticut.
"There were a number of different reasons that we felt they certainly had a good track record in the state of Connecticut in terms of other programs and facilities that they have built and operated," said Grunwald. "I think that their approach toward senior housing in general was consistent philosophically with what the committee felt was important in terms of really promoting peoples independence as much as possible."

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