Sonny Watson, system board chairman, said a very preliminary layout of the project has been developed that would encompass about 65 acres at the site.
“The rumor is out in town and I’ve had three or four people call to say it wouldn’t be long before they would need something like we are talking about,” Watson said Tuesday afternoon.
The initial phase of the project likely would include privately owned residences and an assisted living facility, he noted. A second phase would add a nursing option.
“We have retirement developments in the county and several assisted living facilities, but nothing that offers private housing, then assisted living and finally a nursing facility,” he said.
Houston Healthcare System Board would operate the complex through its for-profit subsidiary under partnership with a private developer. The private developer has not been determined, Watson confirmed.
The chairman said the operational concept would allow individuals to buy homes on the site with agreement that their home would be repurchased should they later require assisted living or nursing care. The private homes would receive upkeep and maintenance and residents would have access to amenities at the assisted living facility including food service.
The board has already agreed to spend $62,000.00 for materials needed to run sewerage lines to the site. The Bateman Group has also agreed to obligate $62,000.00.
“So we would pay about $124,000.00 for the materials and the city would do the installation,” Watson said.
The availability of sewerage services is a major step in the process.
“We cannot make any firm plans or spend any money on engineering and drawings if we do not have sewerage,” Watson stressed. “Otherwise, we would throw money away.”
How quickly the city of Warner Robins might address the project was not immediately clear.
There is growing interest in retirement centers across the country particularly as “baby boomers” continue to age. Middle Georgia is also a favorite retirement area for military people who value access to the facilities at Robins Air Force Base.
“Some people are ready to sell their house now and get away from keeping their yards up and painting their house,” Watson pointed out. “They would move into a retirement village.”
The project would also be an additional revenue source for Houston Healthcare, the chairman stressed.
“The new Obamacare and all the other things that are going on including lower Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance reimbursements mean that we have to look at additional methods of making money for the hospital,” he said.
Watson noted that other medical systems are involved with similar ventures including The Medical Center of Central Georgia. MCCG owns Carlyle Place in Macon, a retirement complex similar in concept to the project envisioned for Houston County.
Houston County Hospital Authority purchased the acreage envisioned for the possible development in May of 2004 for almost $5.8 million.
The location was initially considered a possible relocation site for Houston Medical Center but it became excess in December of 2004 when the authority voted to renovate and expand the hospital at its current location on Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins.