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Lowville hospital dialysis project awarded $300,000 grant

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County General Hospital’s long-discussed dialysis project has received a $300,000 boost from the state.

“Obviously, we appreciate any support we can get from any of our funding sources,” said Eric R. Burch, CEO at the county-owned hospital. “It will lessen the debt load we have to carry.”

Empire State Development Corp. awarded $300,000 toward the project as part of last week’s regional economic development funding announcement.

The center will provide a local treatment option for Lewis County residents who now must travel to Watertown or Utica to receive dialysis. Up to 30 dialysis patients in Lewis County typically undergo four-hour treatments three days a week.

The state Department of Health in early 2011 approved a certificate of need for DaVita Inc., Buffalo, to operate a dialysis clinic on Lewis County General Hospital’s North State Street campus, and hospital officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in March in the hope of commencing the project by next year.

The hospital is proposing to build a $1 million, 7,200-square-foot addition off the west side of the Medical Arts Building’s first floor and basement to accommodate the dialysis center. Upon completion of the building shell, the hospital would turn it over to DaVita, which would do the interior finish work.

The Lewis County Hospital Foundation has been raising funds for the project for the past several years, and hospital officials continue to seek grant funding from other sources, Mr. Burch said.

The balance of construction costs likely would be covered through bonding by the county.

Attorneys for the hospital and DaVita are still ironing out details on a 10-year lease agreement for the proposed dialysis facility, but hospital officials continue to anticipate completion some time in late 2013.

County legislators in 2006 and 2007 supported certificate-of-need submissions that would have allowed Renal Care of Northern New York, Watertown, to set up a dialysis operation here, but those plans never came to fruition.

Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare, Utica, in fall 2009 submitted another certificate-of-need application. However, by the time the project received state approval, Faxton St. Luke’s officials had decided not to move forward, leaving local officials searching for another partner. They found one last year in DaVita, a company based in Denver that operates similar centers throughout the country.

Lawmakers on Thursday voted 10-0 to keep contracting with Wladis Law Firm, East Syracuse, for government liaison services through the end of June at a retainer of $500 per month.

Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, chairman of the legislative Economic Development Committee, after the meeting credited the firm — which has been under contract with the county since May — with helping to secure the ESD grant and seek additional funding for dialysis and other county projects.

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