Complex gives seniors a new option
By JUDY SHERARD
STOCKTON -- Half of the eight apartments at Stockton Estates, 206 S. Second, are occupied even though Bainter Construction still is putting on the final touches.
The senior apartment project is one of nine facilities either completed or in the construction process, said Wes Bainter, who owns the construction company.
Other finished projects are in Hoxie, Hill City, Smith Center and Cimarron. Projects in Hays, Phillipsburg, Meade and Colby are in various construction phases.
Because Bainter owns the facilities, he doesn't keep track of construction times.
"We'll have several of these (apartments) going at the same time," he said. "Depending on the time of year, we may be doing interior on this one, and not working on another one where we're still working on concrete. So we just do it all together."
The Hays project, named Ellis Estates, will have a total of 32 apartments, 12 in the first phase, and 20 in the second. Bainter said he already has a list of potential tenants, but there still are some openings.
"We hope to be done with the first phase by the end of year," he said.
Each facility has its own manager. Barbara Henson is the part-time manager in Stockton.
"She takes it upon herself to do all of the extra little things that make you feel appreciated and cared for," Bainter said. "You can't hire that; it's got to come with the person."
"There's a real sense of family here, a real sense of community," Henson said. "I've lived here (in Stockton) a long time, so I know most of the people who are going to be moving in here. ... They're very appreciative. I don't think I've ever had a job where I'm so appreciated.
There's no planned activities or meals served at the independent living facilities, but local meal services provide meals for residents who want them. Many sign up and gather in the common area to eat lunch. That area includes tables, chairs, restrooms, incoming and outgoing mailboxes, a mini-kitchen for family get-togethers and a lounge area with a television.
"We want to provide space for all of the activities they want to do -- quilting, putting puzzles together, all kinds of things," Bainter said.
An adjacent safe room, a poured concrete vault, provides a storm shelter and includes an area for a hair stylist's use.
Dale "Doc" Dean, 94, one of the first residents, moved there in early July.
"I sold my home; I was homeless in Stockton," he joked.
His daughters, Ginger Kollman and Pam Hageman, orchestrated the move.
"Ginger was down at my house," Dean said. "I lived there 60 years plus. She told them what to move. Pam was up here, and she told them where to put it."
He admits to feeling strange the first few days.
"It feels more like home (now) when I walk in the door," he said.
"It's been a Godsend for him," Kollman said.
"All of our apartments are identical -- two bedroom, 1300 square foot, two handicapped baths that adjoin each bedroom," Bainter said. "We're fully handicapped, wheelchair and scooter accessible in every regard -- kitchens, common areas, a complete project."
Kitchens have full-sized appliances, including a dishwasher.
"Some of the ladies have cooked all their lives and don't really care to now, but they still want to know that stove is there," Bainter said.
The bedrooms are placed on either end of the apartment. One has a walk-in closet large enough for a sewing room or office and still provide storage.
The other bedroom has two closets, and the attached bath has a large attached laundry room.
Dean's apartment opens to the exterior of the building, with space for a couple of lawn chairs. Other units open to an interior courtyard, where residents can have a few potted plants or vegetables.
Each apartment comes with a garage large enough for a car and additional storage.
Each also has its own small utility room accessible from the main hall that houses the water heater and circuit breaker box.
"If we need to shut water off, it doesn't affect the other apartments," Bainter said.
Residents also can adjust the temperature in their unit to suit themselves.
Bainter doesn't use government funds to build the units, so there's no income qualification. Rents vary from $1,200 to $1,500, including utilities.
There are few rules, but Bainter said he probably would draw the line at children living there.
"We have full discretionary leeway on a case-by-case basis to say this person would be a good fit or that person would not."
However, Bainter doesn't just start building in a town.
"They all invited us to come," he said.
He first started working with Stockton two years ago.
"It's just private financing," he said. "It's mine, and I usually like to use the local bank. In this case, Stockton National Bank is a financing entity here. We much prefer that the local bank do the financing."
Bainter's first project, in Hoxie where he lives, opened in 2004.
"Over the years of doing this, we feel like we've learned quite a bit about what people need and what they'd like to have," Bainter said. "The one thing common to all of us is that we really don't want to give up our independence, even if we have some deterioration with age. We still want to keep our independence and be the decision maker about where we live and who takes care of us."