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Health Group Sells Building, Keeps Services

Woodstock — The building that is home to the Ottauquechee Health Center has been sold to a developer, who will renovate it and has long-term plans to keep it as a place for primary and specialty care.

The nonprofit Ottauquechee Health Foundation sold the property last month for $793,750 to DEW Properties, a Williston, Vt., outfit with offices in Hanover and Keene.

The two organizations are very different in their work and missions, with one focused on community health and the other on building major commercial, educational and other projects around the state.

However, both agreed that the Woodstock building should remain a health center.

“We are pleased to be provided with the opportunity to improve the facility in Woodstock,” said Don Wells, president of DEW Construction, in a statement. “Not only will this improve the patient experience, it will make better use of our natural resources and conserve energy.”

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center has provided outpatient primary and specialty care there since 2007 and has signed a long-term lease with DEW to continue doing so, said Paul Calandrella, Mt. Ascutney’s chief operating officer. He would not say exactly how many years the lease was for, but said the agreement ensured the property would “be a health care facility for a long, long time.”

Keeping it a place where Woodstock residents and those from surrounding communities could continue to get their primary care was a priority for the foundation in selling the building, said Liza Deignan, president of the foundation.

“There is really a long-standing commitment to making sure that people in this community are able to be cared for locally,” Deignan said.

The foundation gives out grants, funding and other support for health projects in nine communities between Hartland, Killington and Plymouth, Vt.

The new owners plan to make significant upgrades to the aging building, which dates back to the 1970s. The building’s layout needs to be changed to meet the needs of modern health care, according to the foundation. It also needs more efficient windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as certain room design changes to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Simply having a newly renovated space would help with cleanliness and improve patient privacy, Calandrella said. The center would also be gaining two exam rooms and there would be some expansion of the physical and occupational therapy spaces.

Mt. Ascutney will have to pay a little more to lease the building after the improvements, Calandrella said. However, he said the new arrangement with DEW was fair.

“We pay market rates, but we’ll also have a market-type building to go with that,” he said. “DEW has been a good partner in the process.”

The money from the sale not only boosts the foundation’s endowment, which is now at $3.4 million, but also allows it to focus on its core mission to fund local individuals and organizations, Deignan said.

Last year, the foundation gave out about $165,000 in grants to individuals and organizations in the community, said Sherry Thornburg, the foundation’s executive director.

The money goes to help people who cannot afford to pay for their health care, and to organizations that provide health related services.

From 1999 through 2012, the foundation has granted approximately $2.5 million, Thornburg said. Organizations that have received money from the foundation include the Good Neighbor Health Clinic, Red Logan Dental Clinic, Good Beginnings and Upper Valley Haven.

Managing real estate is not a key interest for the foundation, Deignan said, and absolving the foundation’s staff of that responsibility would allow them to focus attention on the primary mission.

“We are in the business of giving away money,” Deignan said. “That’s why the organization lives and breathes. We’re here to give away money and not to manage real estate.”

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.