Central Hall project takes shape

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Dover-Foxcroft’s Maine Highlands Senior Center effort 
is two-thirds of the way to $1.9 million fund-raising goal

By Emily Adams

DOVER-FOXCROFT — A future hub of daytime care for dependent seniors, activities for independent seniors and an event space for public and private bookings is inviting groups and individuals to tour its renovation progress as it enters the final stretch of fundraising.

Work continues at Central Hall, the former municipal office building at 152 East Main Street, including asphalt around the building, three-phase power for an eventual elevator, lines to deliver water, which the building has not had for years, and a concrete foundation recently poured for a fire exit.

The project, overseen by the 501(c)(3) non-profit Maine Highlands Senior Center (MHSC), is about $1,450,000 in public and private funds into a transformation estimated to cost a little over $1.9 million, according to MHSC Treasurer Chris Maas. The remaining roughly half a million dollars will finish an Adult Day Service Center (ADSC), including equipment and costs to start programs.

MHSC is awaiting the outcome of pending grants and plans to apply for more, but is looking to raise $200,000 from local donors, according to MSHC President Lesley Fernow, M.D., an internist specializing in geriatrics in Dover-Foxcroft since 1979. MHSC is considering how donors might be able to “pay it forward” by donating now and having those funds benefit a loved one later.

The building will open in three stages: An upstairs event space could be available for weddings, performances and other functions as soon as next spring. The Center Theatre will handle bookings and manage the stage.

An independent senior center will open next spring and be managed by MHSC. It currently hosts volunteer activities off site like coordinating the sizing, assembly and delivery of energy efficient WindowDressers window inserts, promoting ways to reduce the risk of falls and offering programs such as Qigong. It will also offer caregiver

support. Its purpose has been shaped by the Piscataquis Thriving in Place Collaborative funded by a Maine Health Access Foundation grant to keep people at home for the longest time and lead as productive a life as possible, Maas explains.

The day center will be the most notable aspect of the building. It will be a place for dependent seniors to spend a few hours up to six days a week to socialize and receive meals, medication and care in a safe setting. It will follow a medical model, as opposed to a social model and be able to do things like administer medication and have the option of offering physical therapy. It will be licensed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Representatives of MHSC visited several adult day service programs in Maine and the closest thing to what will be offered in Dover-Foxcroft is Friendship Cottage in Blue Hill. It shared financial information with MHSC which provided a “good foundation based on real numbers,” according to Maas. “This is not a state that has a lot of money to be spending on such things. But we think we can make it work. We’re bound and determined to give it our best shot because there’s certainly a need for it.”

The Dover-Foxcroft ADSC will be like having “the same level care as you would find at a nursing home” without having to be admitted to a nursing home, explained retired local orthopedic surgeon and MHSC board member Dick Swett of Dover-Foxcroft, on a recent tour of the facility.

“Our facility would be designed for families that are desperately trying to keep their loved ones at home, but these loved ones require careful observation 24/7 so that they don’t hurt themselves or go out the door and walk off,” he said. They would be safe and secure here so the family can work and tend to their own needs. “There is a huge, unmet need for this in our area.”

Swett was showing the building to longtime friend Robert Bach, M.D., a general surgeon in Dover-Foxcroft from 1995 to 2002 now specializing in hospice and palliative medicine at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Bach’s clients have serious illnesses and need assistance. Sometimes they have visiting nurses, but those visits are limited and very often family members work during the day. “If they had a day care, more families could keep people at home,” he felt. “This is the first introduction I’ve had to this whole concept,” he said, adding, “I think this is a great thing.”

MaineCare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs are expected to pay for this kind of care for individuals receiving those benefits. Medicare will not, according to Maas. Private-pay individuals can also receive services, through the fee to them has not been determined by MHSC yet.

The target service area has a population of about 25,000 people and is comprised of communities within a 30-mile drive of Dover-Foxcroft, according to Maas. A total of 200 dependent seniors coming at different times might be served by the ADSC, he estimates. They might stay three or four hours – typically not all day – and be dropped off by family or transported by the ADSC. The program might be licensed for up to 24 at a time and see an average of 15 to 20 dependent seniors per day.

It will be under the supervision of a nurse and will employ social workers and certified registered medical assistants qualified to dispense medication. The care will start at 7 a.m. and end in the late afternoon. Breakfast, lunch and snacks will be served.

It will have a kitchen, dining area, bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a couple of quiet rooms. The area, approximately two-thirds of the first floor, will be closed from the rest of the building and be accessible, with a ramp, in the rear as a main entrance.

The East Main Street entrance will open into a lobby flanked by the building’s 1882 wooden staircases, and offer restrooms, the entrance to the Independent Senior Center and the yet-to-be-installed elevator.

No town funds went toward the project, according to Maas. Local contractors were hired whenever possible. A new roof was installed. Inmates from Charleston Correctional Facility laid hardwood flooring, did some demolition and installed 1,100 four- by 12-foot drywall sheets.

In the early years, donations were raised locally for utilities to keep the building going.

Ownership of the building will return to the town, which deeded it to the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society in 2011 because the community could not be the owner and still use brownfields clean-up grant funds to remove lead paint and a small amount of asbestos, Maas explains.

Members of the all-volunteer MHSC board of directors, besides Fernow, Maas and Swett, include Julie Mallett, Esq., Cherie Stitham White, Meg Callaway, Gail D’Agostino, Sylvia Dean, Patrick Myers, Dyan Walsh and Rod Wiley.

To inquire about booking the event space at Central Hall, contact the Center Theatre at 564-8943. Tours of the building can be scheduled by calling MHSC at 924-4553.

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