OWATONNA – It’s been almost three months since 24 residents of a local senior living facility had to evacuate due to a flash flood, temporarily relocating to either the homes of relatives or another Owatonna facility.
The Brooks on St. Paul — an Ecumen facility located on the north side of town that provides independent living, assisted living, and memory care — had 16 residents from the first floor relocate to Traditions in Owatonna after a flash flood breached the building on July 5. On Monday, however, those 16 residents had to relocate once again as Traditions had other contractual obligations they had to fulfill, according to an Ecumen spokesperson.
“Restoration is still ongoing on the first floor of the building, but the second floor is fine and the resident there have been there the whole time,” said Ben Taylor, the Ecumen Corporate Communications Manager. “Our residents that had to move to Traditions had to find other accommodations until they can move back in, which we think will be in early November.”
Steve Nyquist, the housing manager at Traditions, which has no affiliations with Ecumen, confirmed that the contracts for the Brooks residents had to expire at the end of September because of other contractual obligations.
“We had originally extended [the Brooks] contracts by a month, but we told them that we couldn’t extend it beyond that,” Nyquist said, explaining that the contracts originally were up at the end of August. All 16 of the Brooks residents had been living in the Traditions II facility.
Though Traditions could no longer accommodate the displaced Brooks residents, Nyquist said that it was their pleasure to help out while they were able to.
“I remember getting the call at 2 a.m. and being told what happened at the Brooks and that they needed a safe place for these people to go,” Nyquist recalled. “I said absolutely.”
In the early morning, Nyquist said that he and several other Traditions personnel cleaned rooms, toilets, and showers and prepared to take in the 16 temporary residents.
“We were happy to have them here for as long as we did and to just be able to help out,” he added. “That’s why we’re in this business — to help people.”
Traditions also recently took in residents from the recently sold Park Place Senior Living, which will be closed as the new owners demolish the vacant Cedarview Care Center and make upgrades to the assisted living facility. Steele County sold the properties to Bradford Holdings in August. Eighteen of the 40-plus Park Place residents are now living at a Traditions facility, according to Nyquist.
As for the damage at the Brooks, Taylor stated they will not know the exact dollar total in damages until the restoration is complete, though he is confident that it will be well over $1 million. He added that the facility is essentially getting an entirely new first floor, which was necessary due to the significant damage. While the immediate remediation from the flood water was a big cost, Taylor said that they have had to replace nearly everything.
“It has been quite an undertaking,” Taylor said about the restorations. “It has gone right according to plan, though. The dry wall went in fine and we’re currently in the process of painting, putting in new carpet, and installing new appliances.”
As for addressing the creek that was the ultimate cause of the flood, Taylor said that they will be awaiting the results of an assessment that the Owatonna city engineer commissioned shortly after the flood, which also affected other people living along the creek. Taylor said that once the study is complete that they will take whatever necessary action needed to help prevent a recurrence of this situation.
“It’s not going to just be a matter of us making a fix, but a fix that will deal with everybody impacted,” Taylor said. “It will need some kind of remediation. We just don’t know what that is right now.”
As the residents patiently await the facility’s first floor to reopen, Taylor stated that everyone negatively impacted by the flood has been nothing short of resilient.
“Both the families and the staff have been amazingly understanding,” he said. “This has been a huge disruption and a huge inconvenience of course, but everyone is trying to stay positive. It was a natural disaster, so they know we have to deal with it.”