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Key West Reactor column
[Published in Key West The Newspaper on October 7, 2011.]
Resisted Living Facility
Back around the turn of the century, a group of Key West movers and shakers decided that the small assisted care facility on Stock Island – Bayshore Manor – wasn’t cutting it when it came to providing a facility where they’d be willing to “age in place”. And this is true. Bayshore can provide assisted care for less than 20 seniors. Many are subsidized, the waiting list is long. Though it does a good job taking care of those folks, it’s really not the kind of place where upscale Key Westers would want to spend a portion of their twilight years.
So the group got together to discuss what they could do about the situation.
Many of them lived in Old Town, so it was only natural that an Old Town location would be a consideration. They quickly focused on the big open space that the City was in the process of acquiring from the Navy in Truman Annex. This focus distracted them from alternatives that could have solved their more immediate needs. After all, if they’d put their efforts behind finding an existing building suitable for a small or medium size commercial assisted care facility, and worked to make the acquisition cost attractive, they very well may have accomplished their original goal long ago.
But the attraction of that big space at the waterfront was just too tempting. Think of the possibilities! There was room for MORE than just assisted care there, if they could get control of a big enough chunk of it. Heck, maybe it could even be used for non-assisted retirement living. The parcel was so BIG — why not? And the plan began moving away from a practical addition to our sparse senior care, toward an ambitious new development.
They knew that it would be a hard sell. This was valuable land, and they knew the populous would expect wide open park space there. How would they be able to convince the rest of us that a retirement development at that location made sense? The answer: a big dose of over-engineering.
Keys Energy had already given the group access to a plot of adjacent land large enough for an assisted care facility of practical size. It was over an acre in size, and set back from the water far enough to not conflict significantly with the proposed park. A facility similar to Bayshore in scope would easily fit. But by now they were entranced by that idea of providing non-assisted retirement homes there, too. They knew this would probably be their last chance to finesse such a facility into Old Town.
So the over-engineering began. The assisted care component would be more than twice the size of Bayshore. A noble goal — but could we afford it? SURE WE CAN! If we get MORE land to build something else there — that could be used to subsidize it. Hmmm, what would make sense? Ahhhhh, how about retirement homes? We could make big bucks off those, and sell the whole project as being “free for the taxpayers!”
But it’d be too obvious calling them what they are (retirement homes.) How about a name more likely to distract people? Call them an “independent living component!” That kinda meshes with “assisted living” and sounds pretty institutional. Yeah, the people who move in won’t have significant medical issues, and yeah, will still be able to drive, and yeah, won’t live much differently than in their previous homes. But have a nurse available to them! That makes it part of a “medical complex.” Problem solved!
And so the group moved forward with the plan, and has stuck to it no matter how absurd it seems. To this day, every time they mention the facility, they claim it WON’T WORK without those retirement homes taking up several acres of our Truman Waterfront. They made no effort to come up with a back-up plan in case the people of Key West found this one not to our liking. Their answer: “It’s the ONLY way an assisted care facility will work here, and if you disagree you have no sympathy for our poor sick grandparents who are waiting to get into this grand facility we have so selflessly come up with to tenderly take them through their twilight years….”
Of course they also try very hard to obscure the fact that SICK seniors will not be welcome at the facility at all, because it is not a NURSING home! I’ve run out of space here to go into all the other flaws in the plan, and the misrepresentations made to get the city to vote in favor of negotiating for their land lease. You can review those details at: http://KeyWestSeniorCare.org
Is it too late to do anything about this? Perhaps. Check with your Commissioner.
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