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County nursing home gets new van

Residents Ray Mealey (front left) and Ginny Shinesh (right) are joined by nursing home staff members Lori Becker (back left) and Cindy Prokash in inspecting the new 14-passenger van that was delivered to the St. Croix Health Center nursing home Dec. 17. Photo by Jeff Holmquist

The St. Croix Health Center nursing home enjoyed an early Christmas present Dec. 17.

A new 14-passenger van was delivered to the nursing home and rehabilitation center that day. It replaces a van that has about 500,000 miles on it and was well past its expected service life.

According to Nursing Home Administrator Frank Robinson, the facility's previous passenger van was a hand-me-down from St. Croix Industries.

The body was rusted in several spots, and the heating and air conditioning didn't work, he said.

Heating and air conditioning -- that stuff is overrated, Robinson joked.

When he began his duties as administrator six months ago, Robinson said he saw the replacement of the aging van as a top priority.

The St. Croix County Board allowed Robinson to carve out sufficient funding from extra revenue in the nursing home budget to buy the vehicle. The cost of the van was about $53,000.

The van was ordered in October, but took several months to be built and equipped with a wheelchair lift and other amenities.

"Our residents are very excited about the new van," Robinson said. They've wanted to go look at Christmas lights, so it was delivered at the perfect time.

In the future, Robinson said the nursing home will use the new vehicle for outings such as the annual summer pontoon ride on Cedar Lake, the annual summer picnic and other events.

With the new van, Robinson noted, the driver won't have to worry about getting stuck with a vehicle full of residents. Often the old van would be difficult to start, especially when the wheelchair lift was used and drained the battery.

"We had to keep the van plugged in even in the summer to make sure the battery had enough power," Robinson said.

Residents and staff members are thankful that the new van will be more reliable and safer, he added.

The nursing home was abuzz when the van arrived at the St. Croix Health Center. A few residents, who braved the cold to take a tour of the vehicle, were like kids in a candy store.