The staff isn’t parking on the grass to make room for client vehicles in the parking lot and construction crews are no longer taking care to keep clear of four-legged patients and people with pet carriers awkwardly navigating their way to the entrance. Even the faux log-cabin siding is gone. It’s been a long seven months, but only the final landscaping—which will happen in the spring—is missing from the newly renovated Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital on Route 131 just north of the St. George town line in South Thomaston.
“This project has been a couple of years in the planning,” says Harbor Road owner/vet Glen Yovino, noting that actual construction began last June. “The hard part was that we had to keep working because it was the beginning of our busy season.” So St. George builder David Miller (of J.D. Miller Construction) and his crew had to stage their work so that Yovino’s staff were able to keep up with the practice’s work load through a busy summer, while the hospital’s staff had to make sure Miller’s crew had maneuvering room.
Yovino, who for the previous five years had been working in a Rockland veterinary practice, had bought the building in 1995. “The building was two years old at the time. It had been designed as a vet hospital for a staff of three vets, an office manager and five or six employees. It was the nicest vet hospital in the area when I bought it.”
Early on, Yovino worked alone. “It was just me. Then we had a part-time vet and she eventually became full time and then we hired another vet. We’ve got 15 employees now. We’re a much, much busier practice than anyone would have predicted based on our location [part way down a peninsula].”
But being on the St. George peninsula was exactly what Yovino hoped for from the first. Although he didn’t grow up in St. George, his mother was from Port Clyde. “My parents and my grandparents owned the Port Clyde store in the late 1960s and while my parents didn’t live here year round, my grandparents lived here and ran the store. So we were here a lot.”
A couple of years out of veterinary school, when Yovino took the veterinary job in Rockland, he and his wife Bethany moved to St. George. “I like my practice’s location. I’m on the peninsula but not too far from St. George. My kids went to school in St. George and at George’s Valley. I practice here because I like the people. We’ve got people’s kids who now bring their animals in. I like that side of it and I like that people know me and call me by my first name. Part of the appeal of being here was to be the vet in the local area.”
The decision to expand and renovate the facility, Yovino explains, was prompted by practicality. “I needed to remodel. The roof, the siding, the windows—they all needed to be fixed. When we started planning the project I was 55 and I figured I was going to be here for at least another 10 years. The idea was that I wanted a nice place to work, not to expand the business. We are still seasonal, although it’s less seasonal than it used to be. The idea was to improve flow, to have it not be cramped and to improve the standard of care. The idea is that pet owners aren’t going to be spoken to in the lobby, that we have the ability to spread out.”
Yovino ticks off just how cramped and difficult things had become: With only two exam rooms, all three vets couldn’t see appointments at the same time. With no other space available for treating dental and non-surgical patients, the hospital’s surgery was pressed into service for procedures beyond its intended purpose. A single small office served the needs of three full-time vets and an office manager. Lab equipment and pharmaceutical supplies were confined to a small space inhospitable to multiple users. The laundry was inconveniently in the basement.
“We now have five areas where we can work on animals, including a whole little wing just for dentistry, as opposed to one surgery and so we can now more easily keep the surgery clean and sterile,” Yovino says with clear satisfaction. A spacious corridor at the back of the building efficiently linking the hospital’s vets and staff to the three exam rooms also provides an ergonomic work space for laboratory equipment and for storing and dispensing pharmaceuticals.
Many of the details Yovino likes best about the renovation have been suggested by Michael Steitzer of MSA Architect in Topsham. Steitzer’s wife is a vet, which has led him to develop a specialty in designing veterinary facilities. “Mike gets so many of the little things,” Yovino says with evident appreciation. “We pointed out that in the old scheme we couldn’t use our microscope if the centrifuge was on and he came up with a simple way to separate the two so that the vibration of the centrifuge didn’t affect the microscope. There were lots of things like that.”
Yovino also took care to include the staff in decisions that might affect them. “I told the staff, ‘I’d love your opinion,’ and there were a lot of opinions. I just didn’t want to hear about things they didn’t like after the fact. I also told them, ‘We’re probably going to lose one of you during this project’ because of the stress of trying to work during the construction process, but we didn’t lose anyone.”
Asked if he believes the renovations at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital are “state of the art,” he gives a positive nod, adding, “The only thing we’ve spared is architectural extravagance. We were working with an existing structure and I didn’t want to blow it all up. The fact that everything has to be ADA [Americans with Disability Act] compliant added a lot of expense. So we’ve tried to make things look nice and I like it, but we’ve been conservative in our extras.”
The chief one of these, he says with a laugh, is that he now has his very own own 8’ x 9’ office. “I just couldn’t be here for another 10 years and have everybody working around me and dealing with every [random] question coming in.” The relief he feels of being able to occasionally shut the door and work quietly at his desk is evident. “It was a long process of getting to this point,” he admits, “but I’m drained.” Luckily, he adds, “At this time of year things get quiet and I like that.” —JW
PHOTO: Julie Wortman