BKW set to acquire Nurse Martin’s office pending district vote

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Nurse practitioner Jill Martin’s rural medical clinic Hilltown Healthcare — the largest provider in the Helderbergs — currently operates on a lease out of 1772 Helderberg Trail, pictured here.

HILLTOWNS — More change is afoot for Hilltown Healthcare, the medical practice established by nurse practitioner Jill Martin more than two years ago in what many saw as a heroic effort to bring healthcare to an otherwise underserved community. 

The property where she currently leases office space — 1772 Helderberg Trail, owned by James and Kimberly Conklin — is set to be purchased by the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school district for $410,000 following a district vote, which Superintendent Timothy Mundell said would take place in May, when district residents will convene to vote on next year’s budget.

The property is directly adjacent to the district campus, and, according to Albany County assessment rolls, has a full-market value of $437,963.

“Originally, when I decided to take on the huge endeavor of opening a privately owned Nurse Practitioner Family Practice in Berne, it was never my intention to leave the current location,” Martin wrote in a statement to The Enterprise this week. 

“Last week, it was brought to my attention that BKW planned to purchase the property for over $400,000 pending a town vote,” she also said.

Gary Kolanchick had set up his medical practice at 1772 Helderberg Trail in the 1990s after having practiced with Dr. Margery Smith for 13 years at the Smiths’ farm in Berne. In 2011, his practice, still at the same location, became part of CapitalCare Medical Group. Kolanchick retired in 2015 and Community Care announced it would close its Berne office in 2019, which is when Martin stepped up. The Hilltowns have just one other medical practice, a micro-practice in Westerlo run by Myria Emeny, M.D., a family medicine specialist.

“Luckily,” Martin continued in her email to The Enterprise, “I had previously purchased a commercial property at 1705 Helderberg Trail, just a stone throw away from our current location. Unfortunately, with the pandemic and astronomical increase in the cost of lumber and all building supplies, I was hoping to put the construction on hold.

“However, with this pending sale, I am forced to begin construction now to complete the project before the end of my lease in order to continue to provide uninterrupted healthcare to the hilltowners.”

Martin added that her practice currently sees over 1600 patients and the staff is “searching for another provider to join the practice to take on new patients.”

Mundell told The Enterprise this week that he had not yet spoken with Martin about what timeline she would require or anything else regarding the sale, but said, “If she needs to stay there, the board [of education] is open to that. We’ll continue with her as a tenant until such time that she’s ready.”

He said the district does not yet have specific plans for the building, having been approached by the Conklins directly last spring and taking a piecemeal approach from there. The couple could not be reached for comment, but Mundell said that they had hoped to “have either the town or the school district” purchase the property. 

But, since the district’s business offices are currently located in the bus garage (“not a healthy space,” as Mundell described it, that lacks important components like storage and adequate ventilation), Mundell said he expects the district to take up the residence portion of the existing building for office space and then lease the business area that Martin currently occupies. 

With the option to put up a new tenant in the mixed-use building, Mundell and the board appear intent on attracting new services to the Hilltowns.

“Things I think the board would consider include a daycare … or perhaps an after-school program run by an outside agency,” Mundell said. “We’ve also considered partnerships with municipalities for conduct of public business there.”

He also floated other kinds of health-related services, like dentistry and physical therapy, as well as an expansion of the district’s current mental-health services, which involve a clinician located in the high school who “provides service to not just students, but families as well.”

“There are a variety of things the board is focused on, in terms of services to support our community,” Mundell said, “because we don’t have a Main Street with office spaces and all kinds of different services like you would find in Colonie, or Bethlehem, or Delmar.”

More Hilltowns News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.