Ordinance may reduce fire crews’ calls to senior facilities | TheUnion.com

Ordinance may reduce fire crews’ calls to senior facilities

A proposed city ordinance would require future Grass Valley senior care facilities with seven or more residents to have enough employees to help residents off the floor and back to bed without the help of the city’s fire department.

Under the proposal, which the Grass Valley City Council will consider for the first time Tuesday, future facilities with more than 30 units would also be required to offer transportation services at least 30 hours a week, and all would have to offer some units to poorer seniors.

All facilities, including those already built, would also have to have emergency backup power available.

The proposed ordinance would also apply to existing elder care facilities that are sold.

The ordinance comes in the wake of the opening of several senior care facilities in Grass Valley, including Highgate Retirement Village on Sierra College Drive, Brunswick Inn in the Glenbrook Basin, and Quail Ridge off Sutton Way.

Eskaton on Ridge Road is slated to open in May. With 57 assisted-living apartments, 80 independent-living apartments and another 130 patio homes to be built in the near future, Eskaton will be the largest of them all.

Seniors who live in independent-living apartments require less care than those who live in assisted-living apartments. Assisted-living residents receive daily help with bathing, dressing and other needs.

Assisted-living and independent-living centers are not nursing homes and do not provide medical care.

Issues have surfaced as facilities have opened and created problems the city didn’t anticipate, officials say.

“We didn’t have a clue as to what the needs would be, as to what the expenses would be – to the city and the county,” Mayor Linda Stevens said Saturday.

Grass Valley Fire Chief Hank Weston said Friday that senior facilities for seven or more people need to have enough staff available to help residents who fall.

Fire personnel will continue to help when people fall and break a leg, he stressed. “That’s an emergency,” he said.

But the fire department is now called to put people back into bed, help them off the floor or unlock a bathroom. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing that care, he said.

These facilities are businesses, Weston said: “People are paying money to (live) in these homes.”

The Grass Valley Fire Department handles on average of 165 non-emergency assist calls a year, Weston said.

All senior facilities in Grass Valley have emergency backup power, Weston said. This helps because his department will not have to respond when electricity goes out, he said.

Nevada County Transit, which administers city, county, state and federal funds to provide transportation to the frail and the elderly, is concerned with the rise in ridership when Eskaton opens. “They are worried they won’t have enough money,” Stevens said of transit officials.

Eskaton executive director Connie Batterson said Friday that the staff only calls 911 when it is appropriate. Grass Valley’s Eskaton will have emergency backup power, she said.

“We don’t see (the proposed ordinance) as problematic for us,” she said.

The city’s Planning Commission will have to review the proposed ordinance before the City Council adopts the new rules.

Know and Go

WHAT: Grass Valley City Council

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council Chambers, City Hall, 125 E. Main St.


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