Rocky Mountain Manor seeks donations for needed upgrades

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Helping out a neighbor is one thing, but helping out 60 in one go is another thing entirely.

In what could be called a domino effect of upgrades, Rocky Mountain Manor’s needs stemmed from its aging, and very busy, elevator needing to be upgraded.

The facility’s only elevator has had operational issues and occasional power outages, which leads to unsafe conditions.

Its control panel and motor are too old to repair and need replaced, which means several weeks without elevator access — a deal breaker for a multi-story facility filled with many residents unable to use the stairs.

“It goes down for a few hours and we can’t use it,” said Cindy Ibarra, manager of Rocky Mountain Manor. She also noted that their elevator has the most traffic out of any elevator in the area — second only to the elevator at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings.

The control panel sparks every time the elevator is used. Fortunately, it is not a fire hazard since the spark is contained within the unit.

This means another elevator is needed while the main elevator is unable to be used. Adding a second elevator would serve not only as a backup for when the main elevator is down, but it would also provide additional ambulatory access.

“You can imagine how we would get people out if there was a fire,” said Wes Metzler, president of the board for Rocky Mountain Manor.

This addition topples over into needing a new generator as well, turning this one project into three high-dollar projects for the non-profit facility whose residents get by on a fixed income.

Repairs to the elevator would take six to eight weeks to complete, Metzler said.

The elevator works safely for now, but there are no estimates on how long it will last.

“It could be five years, and it might not. Just depends on when the big motor goes out,” Metzler said. “The elevator is in good shape; we’re just trying to prevent it from being an accident waiting to happen.”

The facility’s generator is the original one from when the manor was built over 50 years ago and it can’t handle all of the facility’s electrical needs during power outages, so the elevator needs disabled during that time.

Ideally, they will need a generator that is twice as powerful to meet all the demands, Metzler said.

The goal is to get the generator replaced and the second elevator built this summer while weather is cooperative.

All of this work comes with a hefty price tag. The generator alone is anticipated to cost $125,000. The manor has requested a grant for half the cost of the generator — provided they can raise the other half through local donations and fundraisers.

Replacing the motor and upgrading the parts for the elevator is anticipated to cost $200,000. The overall project is estimated to be around $627,500 to complete, and so far two sources for matching funds have been found, Metzler said.

“Both funders want community participation and we have a fair amount raised already to match,” Metzler said. “We are basically not sure how much we need to raise.”

He estimated the board probably needs to raise somewhere around $200,000.

Raising the rates really isn’t an option for the manor, since it’s essentially Section 8 housing, meaning rent can’t exceed one-third of the tenants’ income for those who qualify. The remaining residents pay a price that is based on a fixed rate.

Rates have gone up about 1 percent per year on average, but utilities have increased more than that, Metzler said.

“It is a bargain, it really is, when you figure utilities,” Metzler said.

Rocky Mountain Manor was established in 1966 with 52 units open to those in need of housing and over the age of 55.

The manor’s occupants range from fully functional to those with disabilities. The majority of the residents, 61 percent, are between 81-100 years old and 38 percent are 55-80 years old.

The manor isn’t just a roof over their heads; it provides a home environment with access to lunch prepared by the Powell Senior Center, a service coordinator helps the residents with their personal needs, and an activity director is on hand to provide for the health and enjoyment of the residents.

All of these services help the residents delay the need for an assisted living facility or a care center, which helps them stay closer to family and maintain their independence.

Those wanting to help may send donations to Rocky Mountain Manor. Every dollar counts, Metzler said.

• Additional elevator — $162,000

• Refurbish original elevator — $200,000

• Replace the generator — $125,000

• New elevator lobby — $50,000

• Parking lot on east side of property — $42,000

• Additional parking for residents — $48,000

Total $627,500

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