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” This is an important step forward for the town.”

So said Board of Estimate and Taxation Chairman Steven Walko this evening after a unanimous BET vote to approve $20,205,000 as an additional appropriation with an accompanying bonding resolution that will enable The Nathaniel Witherell to move forward with its much needed Project Renew, years in formation.

The BET vote, coming after nearly an hour of discussion, met with applause from the audience.It was indeed a critical step forward in ensuring the nursing home’s survival and securing its future.

Walko thanked the Nathaniel Witherell board and staff for all their hard work as well as thanking the Board of Selectmen, RTM members and all those who attended the BET public hearing in October. Walko expressed the wish that Nathaniel Witherell “should be with us for decades to come.”

The BET did, however, place five conditions for release on the Project Renew appropriation, which will now require BET receipt and approval of:

* the construction documents and updated construction cost estimates

* validation of the business plan

* construction management method to be a construction manager acting as agent for the      town

* updated environmental reports

* final construction bids

Nathaniel Witherell Board Chairman David Ormsby said he was “perplexed” by the second condition that calls for “validation of the business plan.”  He indicated that Nathaniel Witherell has a business plan in place that it has worked on for nine months. He said he would have thought any such validation should be against some standard such as consistency with the construction documents and cost estimates.

Walko assured Ormsby that such was the intention and that BET approval of the application would be an approval not only of the bonding resolution, but also the  existing business plan.

After the BET vote in favor of Project Renew, Lloyd Bankson, a five-year member of the Nathaniel Witherell Board, thanked the BET, particularly its outgoing members, for all their hours of work.

Where thanks are due, I would say the community also owes a special thank you to Nathaniel Witherell Board Chairman David Ormsby for his tireless work over many years in shepherding this project over numerous hurdles.

And now it’s on to the December 12 RTM vote, hopefully the last major hurdle to clear.