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Katahdin Valley Health Center seeks permits for new $10-20 -million facility

HOULTON, Maine — The Katahdin Valley Health Center may soon build a new health care facility in Houlton.

According to an application submitted to Houlton’s Code Enforcement Office, officials from the federally-qualified health center say they have outgrown their current facility located at 59 Bangor St. and wish to build a new $10-$20 million facility at 121 North St.

The North Street property is currently owned by the Putnam Family Trust and consists of a 154.5-acre parcel of land and a two-story residence built in 1917 that has been vacant for a number of years.

The application states that the residence would be demolished and a new 54,000-70,000 square foot, two-story medical/dental facility would be constructed on the site, including parking for 250 vehicles. To access the property, developers would construct a new road at the traffic light by the Houlton Shopping Center, making that a four-way intersection.

Interim Town Manager Cathy O’Leary said Friday that the property in question has not been sold, as the sale is contingent on approval from the town’s planning board. That board will review KVHC’s application during a public hearing scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in the town office.

It was unclear what might happen to the existing medical facility on Bangor Street. Claudette Humphrey, chief executive officer for KVHC, could not be reached Friday for comment on the proposal.

KVHC has clinics in Houlton, Patten, Millinocket, Brownville and Ashland. The Houlton facility offers a wide variety of services including health care, chiropractic services, dental hygiene, physical therapy, massage therapy and a pharmacy.

The Houlton location opened nearly 15 years ago, with a major expansion taking place in 2011 to accommodate an increased customer base. In 2016, the clinic purchased two abutting properties and had those buildings razed to expand parking at the center. And in 2017, yet another renovation took place to increase exam rooms and check-in stations for patients.

In the permit application, Humphrey stated, “KVHC is still hindered by the inability to meet the needs of patients in the timely and seamless manner that our patients have become accustomed to.”

Humphrey states in her letter that further expansion at the Bangor Street site is no longer an option as there is no additional space to acquire and that expanding the existing building would simply take away much needed parking spaces. The organization searched for a suitable piece of property in the downtown area, but was unable to come up with a large enough parcel to allow for any potential future growth.

“One factor that has driven the necessity of this new facility is that we are beyond capacity with the current building and property,” she wrote. “What was considered a large waiting room in 2011 is now overcrowded; we have healthy dental patients sitting with ill primary care patients.”

In 2011, the clinic housed 21 exam rooms, but that number is now inadequate to meet patients needs.

“Now we have patients with long wait times for an appointment because we cannot hire more primary care providers due to limited space.”

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