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Forest City's new vet clinic being readied; business booming during COVID-19

Forest City's new vet clinic being readied; business booming during COVID-19

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Longtime Forest City veterinarian Gene Fjeld told Holland Contracting building director and projects manager Greg Flugum in early spring 2019 that the Forest City Veterinary Clinic facility had become too small, and that a plan to expand was needed.

Flugum confirmed that was when the clinic's current new building construction and relocation project ultimately began. He met with Fjeld and his family and employees multiple times, first looking to expand the existing facility at 35058 180th Avenue in Forest City before deciding to build an all new facility.

The existing clinic location and other properties were briefly considered. Then the City of Forest City informed the parties that Nerem Industrial Park had multiple open lots, providing a plot map with lot sizes, locations, and available infrastructure.

“It seemed like the obvious fit for their needs,” said Flugum. “One strict desire Gene voiced was to be sure rainwater drained away from the front door. If you’ve ever gone to the existing facility after a rain, you totally understand.”

By March 2020, Flugum had a floor plan and created a budget amount to fit their needs. In July 2020, the contractor advised that a dramatic price increase was looming on all building materials, which could raise the overall project costs more than 15 percent.

“That was the deciding factor,” said Flugum. “Gene and his family made the decision to go ahead with the all new facility at Nerem Industrial Park. A building package was ordered immediately in order to lock in pricing. We then had approximately 90 days until that package would arrive. The race was on to be sure we would be ready for it.”

Construction began in mid-September 2020 by building up the site to make it level. By the first of November, the foundations, underground piping and electrical, and main floor were complete and ready for construction. Since then, Holland Construction has had crews on site at 524 Nerem Dr. with the goal of completing the building construction by late spring.

Fjeld explained how, unlike some other businesses, the vet clinic business is booming during and due to COVID-19. He noted that animal shelters and dog breeders are running short on animals as more people want pets when they are confined at home. It has led to increased urgency for the larger facility.

“We’ve had many more pets and more business,” said Fjeld. “It has increased our workload, plus we have had to provide curbside service due to COVID since last May. We want our clients to like what’s happening here. It is for them too and will make for a much more enjoyable experience and better service.”

As of early February, interior construction at the new facility has continued with the building enclosed and comfortable, and in-floor heat being used. All interior rough-in plumbing, electrical wiring, and ducting was laid in place well enough for the interior walls to be built and covered with drywall.

The next major goal was to have electrical connected to the various areas, plumbing completed and ready for use, and the air conditioning system installed to allow fan operation and balancing. Finishing walls, ceilings, and lastly floors comes next. Then moving in cabinetry will help make the building ready for occupancy.

Flugum said crews should be performing final finishes in April and May. The floor finish will be one of the last operations, so as to avoid damaging the floor finish.

A process of transitioning to the new facility could begin by June or even sooner. Both Fjeld and his daughter and veterinarian clinic partner, Ceara Mullins, said that they will have enough equipment and supplies and coordination to continue operating the clinic even while starting to move a number of things in advance of their final relocation.

Flugum discussed many high-tech, energy saving, noise reducing, and state-of-the-art equipment features of the new building. The in-floor heat is from a gas boiler running treated water through multiple plastic pipe loops in three zones at the front, middle, and rear of the building, so temperature can be controlled independently for each zone.

An acoustical suspended ceiling throughout the building will lessen noise. The exam rooms are also sound deadened. There are five exam rooms versus two in the existing clinic in anticipation of hiring another veterinarian to better serve clients.

A cost-saving feature of the construction is the installation of a large previously-owned walk-in freezer that will be used as a medicine cooler. An interesting note about the freezer is that it is from the former Thompson school building, which Winnebago County Supervisor Terry Durby is converting to apartment space. Durby sold it to the vet clinic at a reduced cost.

The entire vet clinic staff, presently five full-time employees, not including the two vets, is excited there will be a surgery room at least three times larger than exists now. The new surgery room is built with the latest technology and is fully power washable for sanitizing. It will have two surgery tables, a dental table, and treatment tables. In addition, an employee lounge and kitchen are eagerly anticipated.

“The lab area is the only place to keep food now,” said Mullins. “It is small and doesn’t really work well, so employees will love this.”

The lobby area will have a reception desk that four people can sit behind and still maintain social distancing during COVID-19. 

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at rob.hillesland@globegazette.com.

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