Interest shown in reviving shuttered Kiski Township personal care home

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories updating issues from the past year. The stories will appear daily, except on Sunday, through the end of the year.

A shuttered personal care home in Kiski Township has garnered interest from a few entrepreneurs, a local official said.

The Department of Public Welfare closed Wofford's Cherry Lane Manor, a personal care home in Kiski Township, in March. Inspectors say they found life-threatening fire-safety issues, electrical hazards and substandard plumbing.

All 19 residents were immediately removed and relocated.

Since then, two parties separately have shown interest in reviving the operation, Kiski Township zoning administrator Sam Ross said.

“A few people have looked at it and wanted to see what it would take to get it up and running again,” Ross said, declining to estimate costs.

“They'd have to get an architectural drawing of the whole building — the structure, wiring, plumbing, bedroom, kitchen areas,” Ross said. “And they'd have to update all that, especially the electrical and plumbing.”

In shuttering the facility, Ross said too many electrical extension cords and other wiring hazards, as well as plumbing problems, caused the township to declare the residents were at risk.

“We never did get into living quarters,” Ross said. “In the basement, there was enough there to close them down.”

Matthew Jones, acting director of human services licensing for the Department of Public Welfare, said it's not only direct-care issues that can land a center in hot water, but also code issues with the facility itself.

“All the regulatory requirements are intended to meet health and safety standards,” Jones said. “We take them all seriously. Sometimes, folks try but aren't able to meet requirements, and that means people are not getting safe and good care. That jeopardizes the license.”

Among the issues at Wofford's Cherry Lane were unlocked poisonous materials, smoking in the home, failure to follow prescriber orders, electrical and plumbing problems, lack of documentation for handling resident funds, having only one exit up to grade for residents with mobility needs, unsanitary conditions and resident-right issues, said Kait Gillis, deputy director of communications for the Department of Public Welfare.

Although local officials have been contacted, there has been no communication with state regulators. Gillis said they have received no calls of interest from anyone seeking to resurrect the business. “Since it closed last spring, we've had no applications from anyone looking to reopen it,” Gillis said.

Jones said a personal care home could get a license at the building again, as long as all the issues are resolved.

“There is nothing that prejudices the physical site,” Jones said.

He said it takes about two months from receipt of the application to the issuance of a license if all requirements are met.

Ross said the building is an old schoolhouse and is structurally sound.

“They'd just be updating a lot of items there and making adjustments,” Ross said.

Ross said the structure is a nonconforming building, meaning its use was established before zoning. While its status is a personal care home, after a year of vacancy, the site loses its nonconforming use.

If new management waited until after March to re-open, the owner would have to get a variance to proceed, which could prolong the process, Ross said.

Ross said he believes there's a market for a personal care home in the area.

“Most definitely,” he said. “As a township, we're more than willing to work with anyone interested and willing to reopen it. Our main concern is the safety of the residents and their well-being.”

Maria Guzzo is a freelance writer.

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