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Assisted living facility is a golden opportunity for city

Brookhaven has been a Certified Retirement City since 2005, yet eight years later, we continue to have no assisted living facilities in town to help ease the transition for senior citizens who are still active but no longer comfortable living on their own.

Over the years since the town received its Certified Retirement City status, a number of developers have tried to build assisted living centers here, but time after time, one obstacle after another was raised to keep the projects from becoming a reality.

It’s sadly ironic that Brookhaven meets all the criteria for retirees – good neighborhoods, quality medical care, low taxes, a low crime rate, good educational and recreational facilities, cultural opportunities and a reasonable cost of living – but we have yet to embrace the idea of offering seniors a way to transition from living on their own while keeping some of their independence.

Now, the city is being given another opportunity to have an assisted living facility. Last week, Magee-based Advanced Healthcare Management Inc. publicly announced plans to build a facility on undeveloped property on Silver Cross Drive behind Central Baptist Church. The approximately five-acre site is near the medical corridor and would offer residents easy access to doctors and King’s Daughters Medical Center’s many facilities.

Before construction can begin, the property will need to be rezoned. “After zoning is complete, we will be moving full steam,” AHM president and CEO Bennett Hubbard said last week.

AHM is no stranger to Brookhaven since it operates Silver Cross Health and Rehabilitation here. Hubbard said his company very much wants to make the property a good neighbor to the areas nearby. “We will customize it to meet the needs of our community,” Hubbard said, noting he welcomes local residents’ input.

“Brookhaven is going to very proud of this facility,” Hubbard said. AHM plans to construct an attractive building with a brick exterior. A variety of features will be included, such as rehabilitation therapy, daily wellness activities, three full meals, individualized support/assistance programs, a lounge and visiting areas, light nursing support, weekly housekeeping and linens and a walking trail. The site plan calls for a natural green barrier of trees to be left in place between the facility and neighborhoods, and there will no access from East Meadowbrook Drive. The only roadway into the facility will be from Silver Cross Drive.

The facility will provide assisted living for 44 retirees. Residents will be as active as they like; many will keep their cars and drive to shops, service facilities and churches in town. Those who live there will be private-paying residents who spend $36,000 a year to live in the center.

Hubbard said the facility will have 25 permanent, specially trained employees and an estimated annual payroll of $500,000. During the construction phase, the facility will generate 40 jobs.

All of this will have a significant economic impact on the community as the workers and residents spend money with area businesses and pay taxes here. The 25 permanent jobs that would be provided at the assisted living center compare well with the 25-to-30 anticipated jobs at American Railcar Inc., the city’s newest industry.

While the economic benefits are significant, the greatest outcome of welcoming the assisted living center to town will be the boost to Brookhaven’s reputation as a Certified Retirement Community when we can finally say, yes, we do care about providing this service to our citizens. The 2010 census showed that 2,011, or 16.07 percent, of Brookhaven residents are age 65 years or older.

We urge our city officials to move promptly and positively on the zoning for this facility. Let’s not miss this opportunity to make Brookhaven a Homeseeker’s Paradise for all of our citizens, including those in their golden years.