ADVERTISEMENT

WHEATFIELD – Niagara Hospice expects to receive a federal loan to convert the former Shipman Printing plant into a retail store and headquarters for its home care and Medicaid case management programs.

CEO John Lomeo said last week that Niagara Hospice plans to borrow $1.5 million from the Department of Agriculture for the project, at 2424 Niagara Falls Blvd. The project is eligible for a rural development loan because its location is considered rural, Lomeo said.

The 18,000-square-foot plant is to be converted into a location for Liberty Home Care and also for a new Hospice subsidiary to be called First Choice Health. Lomeo said that not-for-profit entity will work on case management for chronically ill Medicaid patients.

“We’re in the final stages of approval from the state Health Department,” he said.

Besides those programs, Niagara Hospice intends to move its retail outlet, which sells medical equipment and oxygen tanks, into the former printing plant. The store is currently in a temporary location on Porter Road.

All this is expected to open in five or six months, Lomeo said. “We’re not allowed to touch the building until USDA gives the final go-ahead,” he said.

In November, Niagara Hospice bought the one-story brick building, erected in 1960, for $525,000.

Monday, the Wheatfield Town Board passed a resolution of support for the loan application, which is in the name of a Niagara Hospice subsidiary, Palliative Home Care of Niagara.

Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole had the board cancel a March 24 public information meeting scheduled on the project, concluding it was unnecessary.

The $1.5 million loan is for 30 years at 3.5 percent interest per year. “No commercial lender could touch that,” Lomeo said.

Liberty Home Care, which already employs about 15 people, will add 10 new jobs, Lomeo said. First Choice Health is expected to ramp up to employ 25 to 30 people within three years.

Also, Niagara Hospice intends to move its corporate training efforts to the new site from its original headquarters on Sunset Drive in Lockport.

Lomeo said that besides training of current employees, he wants to offer some programs for potential future employees.

“We want to have an educational environment so young people can come to Niagara Hospice, learn about health care,” he said. “We want to train the next generation of caregivers.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com