KREMMLING - Senior housing in Grand County has received significant attention in recent years, with the latest being improvements in the Silver Spruce Apartments in Kremmling.
Following a 2011 needs assessment study that mapped out where state dollars should be injected into the independent-living complex's two buildings over a 20-year period, the Silver Spruce Apartments received its first doses of improvements completed in early January.
One main improvement was installing a lift in Silver Spruce's three-level south building.
One tenant in the building uses a walker, another resident a prosthesis, according to Grand County Housing Authority's Executive Director Jim Sheehan, but the building only had stairs leading to each of its levels. An engineering report generated for the improvement assessed one of the units of the building would lose square-footage were the Housing Authority to install a full-fledged elevator, so a slower but more affordable lift option was chosen for the building.
With a $150,000 grant from the Colorado Division of Housing, the Grand County Housing Authority was able to install the $28,500 lift, plus complete a list of other needed improvements such as new carpet in all corridors, on stairs and some older units, replacement of some windows, and installation of a brand new water heater in one of the buildings. New kitchen countertops were put in units, as well as a new front-loading washer and dryer and an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible laundry counter in the south building.
It is hoped the improvements, which address about half of the items listed in the needs assessment, will help to keep the apartments to the standard of housing sought by Grand County.
"We want the general public to realize we have very nice, very affordable housing units that through grants, improvement costs are not passed onto the tenant," Sheehan said. "When we do repairs, tenants do not see the difference in the amount of rent they have to pay."
It's the third major injection of state funds in public-supported senior housing in Grand County during the past five years.
At the Cliffview Assisted Living Center on the same campus as Silver Spruce Apartments, new carpet, furniture, a water heater, air-quality upgrade, signage and exterior and interior paint were afforded with a $160,000 Colorado Department of Local Affairs Community Development block grant in 2008.
And in 2010, thanks to $190,000 from the state's Department of Energy, as well as from the local Sprout Foundation and from the Colorado Office of Energy Outreach, the Grand Living Senior Homes in Granby gained a new boiler system, energy enhancements and solar panels. Because of the revamped solar-energy capacity in the Grand Living homes, since the improvements completed in the summer of 2011, natural gas use has decreased by an average 52 percent, and Property Manager Marty Pexton reports tenants are saying water heats up nearly immediately.
The government-subsidized Silver Spruce and Grand Living each supply independent-living housing to elderly or disabled tenants for 30 percent of incomes, while Cliffview assisted-living center is paid with private and Medicaid funds.
Silver Spruce Apartments consist of 20 units ranging from 667 square-feet to 800 square-feet in two buildings that were originally a high school and elementary middle school built in the early- to mid-1900s. The buildings were converted to senior housing in 1982-83.
"I love this apartment," said 86-year-old Annie Hulvey, whose ground-level one-bedroom apartment boasts a large kitchen, plenty of cupboard space, a large bedroom, and a living area filled with family photos and her furniture.
Hulvey, who was working on a word puzzle on Friday afternoon, said she was eager to move to the Kremmling area to be closer to her daughter, and had to wait longer than a year to secure the apartment.
It's for this reason Sheehan and Pexton are encouraging potential tenants to get on waiting lists now. Being on a list, Sheehan said, does not commit one to ultimately live in the apartment, but does enable one to apply if the need arises to seek affordable housing in Grand County.
The Grand County Housing Authority can be reached at 970-725-3347.