County closer to finalizing purchase of VNA building

County manager Martina Thornton gives an update on the VNA building purchase to the county advisory board. — Photo by Monica Busch

At a county advisory board (CAB) meeting to discuss preliminary budget items for fiscal year (FY) 2017 on Tuesday afternoon, county manager Martina Thornton said she hopes to complete the purchase of the old Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) building in Tisbury as soon as the end of January. The building will be purchased with a 10-year, $1.6 million bond issued by Dukes County, and will include $200,000 to be used for repairs and renovations.

The Center for Living (CFL) is expected to move into part of the building, but they cannot until a bidding process takes place. The request for proposals (RFP) bidding process would invite other groups to apply to use the building; it would also require that the county first ask Tisbury officials if they have space needs that the building could accommodate. To circumvent that requirement, Ms. Thornton has sought a legal exception to the RFP process. Ms. Thornton told the board that she sent a request to the Governor’s office, which was submitted as an amendment to the state’s budget, but that the amendment did not proceed to the state legislature. Ms. Thornton said she is now considering a special late-file bill that would allow the county to circumvent the RFP requirement.

“I did not get any good projections about how fast this can move, so I’m still looking at potentially having to create the bidding package,” Ms. Thornton told CAB members.

The county plans to insulate the roof, install doors, put in two windows, and build a third handicap bathroom with the $200,000 set aside for renovations. Additional changes will be funded by the CFL, and proposals include installing sprinklers and alarms on doors. The CFL is concerned with making the building more friendly to patrons with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The CFL was bequeathed $1 million from Margaret Yates in June, but cannot use the funds on renovations to the new space until it enters a long-term lease, which would be delayed by the potential bidding process.

As for the space not used for the CFL, Ms. Thornton proposed the following entities take priority: the two new caseworkers whom the county is hiring to tackle homelessness and welfare applications, and the county’s First Stop program, an informational and resource center website for seniors and caregivers.

Ms. Thornton will ask county commissioners to give her final permission to begin the purchasing process for the VNA building at their next meeting on Nov. 12.