TUPPER LAKE - Everyone loves the design for the new office building Adirondack Medical Center wants to put in place of its current offices on Stetson Road - but not where AMC wants to build it.
The Tupper Lake Planning Board decided Wednesday, instead of approving the project, to send AMC a list of further questions in response to concerns expressed that evening at a public hearing over the visual impact of the proposed location.
Under AMC's proposal, the back of the building would face Wawbeek Avenue, so the old building would remain open until the new one is ready for use, at which point the old building would be demolished and a parking lot put in.
This drawing shows the new office building Adirondack Medical Center has proposed to build on the corner of Stetson Road and Wawbeek Avenue in Tupper Lake.
(Image courtesy of AMC)
"We welcome this building in Tupper Lake," said Larry Denis. "It is very much needed."
However, Denis said it would make more sense to put the doctors currently in the building in temporary offices while the new one is built farther back, to overlap the site of the old one.
AMC officials said moving the doctors to temporary offices while the new offices are built would cost about $250,000. AMC Chief Financial Officer Pat Facteau said the estimated cost is already $1.8 million higher than when the planning began, and he worried that if he has to go back to the AMC Board of Trustees and the state Department of Health and draw up new plans, the project might get scrapped due to inflation during the delay.
The new office building would house the Tupper Lake Health Center and a variety of medical offices.
One concern some audience members expressed was that people driving into Tupper Lake from Hamilton County would see the back of the new building, not the facade.
"It's going to be a beautiful building," said Denis. "Let's showcase it."
Facteau said he wondered if the visual impact would be any better if the building faced Wawbeek Avenue.
"When you're coming into town, I'm not sure if you want to see a whole parking lot in front of a building," he said.
The parking lot has to be in front of the main entrance, wherever that ends up, for handicapped accessibility.
The new office building is the first component of AMC's proposal, but its plan also includes a number of renovations to the AMC-Mercy nursing home. The Tupper Lake Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center would be moved to the nursing home building, and a number of other changes would be made to the nursing home, including adding two residential dining areas, a new chapel and a kidney dialysis center. Currently, the closest dialysis center is in Saranac Lake.
The project would cost $8 million, of which $5 million is to be financed by loans, $1 million by state grants and the rest by private donations and federal grants.
Board members started work on a list of questions that they plan to formalize and send to AMC officials next week. Several mentioned wanting a cost breakdown of the $250,000 needed to relocate the doctors' offices temporarily, how much money would be saved by having a vacant lot to work with instead of working around the current building, and how much would be saved on design details if the back of the building didn't face a street.
"Seeing the concerns of the people of the community, I want to see some numbers on paper," said Planning Board member Eric Shaheen.
Other alternatives were also discussed to bring down the cost of finding temporary housing for the doctors. One possibility mentioned was a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal to help defray the cost. Although AMC, as a nonprofit, is exempt from normal property taxes, it still needs to pay taxes on property it rents out and thus derives income from, such as the doctors' offices. Village Mayor Mickey Desmarais said he thought this could be a good idea.