By Sophie Gorman Oriani

The rebuilding of a local nursing home on Queens Chapel Road, Sacred Heart Home, has left some Hyattsville residents very unhappy. “[I] can’t tell you how frustrated I am to see my street (37th Avenue) turn into a river of mud from Sacred Heart every time it rains, not to mention the cracks in my plaster from their vibration roller,” wrote Reid Nelson in a June 8 email to the Hyattsville Organization for a Positive Environment (H.O.P.E.) email group.

Following a June 4 storm, runoff from the Sacred Heart Home construction project impacted neighboring residents.
Courtesy of Jaime Garay

The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate are building a new convent and nursing home to replace the existing ones, which opened in 1926. The project has been controversial. Many residents signed a petition to the City of Hyattsville in April 2018 expressing concerns about stormwater management, the large footprint of the new building, and the removal of mature trees which stood on the property.

Sister Vacha Kludziak, the administrator of Sacred Heart Home, said that the new nursing home will have 44 single rooms, each with its own bathroom. The rooms will be organized into four “households” of 11 rooms each. The home will have an inner courtyard, which all the residents will be able to access, and  more communal areas and dining areas than the old facility has.  The home will have far fewer residents, too, as the current facility has about 100 beds.

On June 24, the City of Hyattsville sponsored a meeting to update residents on the project. About 30 people attended the virtual session, including residents, representatives from Morgan-Keller Construction, and officials with the City of Hyattsville and Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement. 

At the meeting, Tom Sloan, the general contractor for Morgan-Keller Construction, spoke about the project. He reported that the construction of the convent is going well and should be done in October, while the nursing home should be completed next June.

According to Sloan, the water runoff during the night of June 4 was caused by an unusual storm. “Two and a half to three inches of rain in a very short period … is considered between a 50- and a 100-year storm,” said Sloan, noting that the temporary sediment control measures used during construction are not intended to manage runoff from a storm of that size. According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, a storm is considered a 10-year one if 4.5 to 5.5 inches of rainwater fall in a 24-hour period, and a 100-year storm if 7 to 8 inches of rainwater fall.

“We contain and manage [rainfall from] up to a two-year storm” Mike McCall, the project superintendent emphasized. “Anything above and beyond that is released into the street … [according to] all procedure and protocol.”

Some residents questioned why Prince George’s County only requires construction sites to manage a two-year storm. Jaime Garay, who lives at the intersection of 37th and 38th Avenues, said he and his partner, Carmen Maldonado, have had significant amounts of clay-filled water run off into their yard on multiple occasions. Several residents submitted comments to the city-sponsored meeting expressing concerns that planning for a two-year storm is not enough, given the increasingly heavy rains.

“We don’t take shortcuts,” noted Sloan. “The last thing we want to do is impact the neighbors.” McCall said the company was adding additional sediment control devices, including berms, diversion dikes and sediment traps, as well as hydroseeding more areas. He said the project has had frequent inspections. “We’re willing to work with everybody and … try and make … revisions as we go along,” explained McCall.

“We’re actually going to put up a seismic monitoring station on [a resident’s] property,” said McCall, when questioned about potential seismic impacts from construction vehicles. “We haven’t been doing any blasting or anything [considered] heavy work, so we’re just going to be proactive and follow up on that.” McCall stated that he would make the results of the monitoring publicly available.

Kludziak said the construction project continues a mission to provide the best possible care for the elderly. “Jesus … is present in those vulnerable, defenseless, speechless people,” she emphasized.