MADISON — Work is underway on a $15 million project to renovate the Madison Healthcare Services facility in Madison.

Ground was broken Sept. 8 on a project that will renovate the 56-bed, skilled nursing Madison Care Center and construct a separate but connected 12-unit, assisted independent living facility on the one-block-square campus in Madison.

The project was originally planned for a July start, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the permitting process, according to Erik Bjerke, CEO of Madison Healthcare Services. “Now it’s full speed ahead,” he said.

Project contractor Kraus-Anderson will renovate 52,639 square feet of the campus. The project calls for removing the oldest portion of the Care Center facility, originally built in 1952, and building the 12-unit assisted living addition in its place. Renovation work will upgrade the skilled nursing facility and its infrastructure.

The project is the result of a 2018 facilities study undertaken by the private, nonprofit operation. Bjerke said the study identified a need to renovate the current Care Center space. One of the concerns was underground piping that was corroding and difficult to access.

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The study also identified a need for additional assisted living housing in the county. Madison Healthcare Services manages the Hilltop Residence assisted living center, but it is the only assisted living now available in Madison, Bjerke said.

Lac qui Parle County has an aging population, with nearly 28 percent of its population age 65 and over. The county has 6,623 residents and Madison, its county seat, has a population of 1,417, according to U.S. Census data.

Bjerke said Madison Healthcare Services is in a good financial position to take on the project, and will be benefited by a $1.5 million major gift campaign now underway in the community.

Madison Healthcare Services includes the skilled nursing facility, a 12-bed critical care access hospital, along with a fully staffed medical clinic with specialty care, therapy and outreach services.

Madison Healthcare Services is one of the county's largest employers with nearly 200 employees. The new project is not expected to change staffing levels. The project is designed to improve staffing efficiency.

Bjerke said the contractor expects to have the skilled nursing area ready for residents next summer, with the assisted living facility open to residents in the summer of 2022.