City Council Talks Minors and E-Cigs, Senior Living Facility

An image of the proposed Heritage Communities site in Grand Island.
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Grand Island, NE The Grand Island City Council covered a wide array of topics Tuesday night affecting teens to seniors.

It's already illegal in Nebraska for minors to have e-cigarettes and other nicotine products, but the city of Grand Island unanimously approved a city ordinance stating the exact same thing by request from police and to help the courts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states e-cigarette usage surpasses traditional cigarette use among middle and high school students, but city officials said the ordinance is a matter of moving the cases to municipal court to help lessen the load at Hall County Court.

"Any time we can do something to try to eliminate bad habits, let's do it," Ward 3 council member Julie Hehnke said. "And e-cigarettes - the research hasn't proven that it's not harmful."

Violating the ordinance results in a $25 fine. The new ordinance takes effect in 15 days.

The board also unanimously approved a permit request for a brand new senior living facility to be called Heritage of Sagewood. Heritage Communities of Omaha wants to build the $14 million dollar project just west of Highway 281 near State Street and Ebony Lane.

"We're short of apartments for every age group: young or old," council member Mike Paulick said. "A lot of the assisted living we have now is not income based."

It will be the city's first senior living community to also have memory support resources for people with Alzheimer's and Dementia, according to Amy Birkel, director of residence services for Heritage Communities.

Marketing director Lacy Jungman said the permit would allow for the construction of a 93-unit, 2-story senior living center with the potential to add 70 more units. She said about 65 units will be for assisted living and the remaining would be for those needing memory support services.

"What's cool and different about this community is it will be the first one in Grand Island to have that continuum of care under one roof... and the benefit of that is it helps the transition when they have Dementia," Jungman said.

"We're fully ready to implement this in Grand Island as soon as we can," Birkel said. "There's research and trends and a lot of exciting things going on through the Alzheimer's Association but this is simplistic in its process and methods and brings moments of joy and success for residents who struggle with day-to-day things. It brings a sense of hope and accomplishment that's sometimes diminished throughout this disease."

The same program, called "Portraits," is offered at the Heritage Communities location in Hastings and has helped upwards of 20 people since starting a year and a half ago, Birkel said.

"Every resident that lives in memory support has a plan put together for them," she said.

Jungman said the next step is to select a general contractor and hopefully break ground around September or October.

"It's been a while since there's been construction in the senior living realm in Grand Island," Jungman said. "We're looking froward to partnering with local businesses and we want to be a part of the community."