The Rowley Masonic Community’s new chief financial officer has had a baptism by fire in his first five weeks on the job, joining the nursing facility just as it undergoes its largest expansion since its founding in 1955.

Matt McDevitt, 37, of Perry, brings more than 10 years of experience in public financing and investment accounting to his position at the Rowley, but mastering the intricacies of Medicare and Medicaid billing has still meant a steep learning curve.

"It’s been a crash course in skilled-nursing financing," he said. "I’ve been learning the details of how Medicaid pays and how the billing process varies according to the level of care and also how Medicare supplements further complicate the billing and disbursement process."

McDevitt was born in Perry at the Dallas County Hospital but raised in Cedar Rapids from the age of 3. He took a degree in accounting from Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids after studying political science for four years at the University of Iowa, where he also minored in business. His first few years out of college were spent with the Cedar Rapids accounting firm of McGladrey and Pullen, but the long hours and frequent travel became less attractive once he met a woman who lived in Des Moines.

McDevitt eventually landed a job with the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines and married his friend there, Anne Marie Spellman of Perry.

The McDevitts soon moved to Perry, where they have now lived for more than 10 years. Anne Marie is an attorney in Perry, and the couple has three small children in school..

McDevitt brings his expertise in investment financing to the leadership team of the Rowley Masonic Community at a crucial time, with the financing for the community’s $20 million expansion entering its final phase, according to Rowley Administrator Cindy Friess.

The construction costs alone are about $16 million, Friess said, with the additional costs of professionals, such as architects, lawyers and financiers, bring the total closer to $20 million.

Given the $3.5 million annual budget of the Rowley, the expansion is a massive project and arranging its financing is a complex matter, she said.

"Matt’s not just getting his feet wet," Friess said, "he’s getting his head dunked under water."

Friess, who has been on the Rowley staff for 38 years, 28 as administrator, said the expansion is being financed by a mix of sources, including direct support from dues-paying Iowa Masons, debt financing through the sale of bonds and bank loans. The Rowley is licensed by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals for 57 skilled-nursing beds. Once construction on the new extension is complete—provisionally planned for the fall of 2014—the center will still be licensed for 57 beds, 49 of which will occupy the new new wing along with another eight beds for sub-acute Medicare patients.

The new facility will also include 16 assisted living/memory care units.

The present two-story wing, in use since 1955, will be "repurposed," according to Nancy Johnson, Rowley Masonic Community communications director. The old wing will possibly be converted to independent living suites, she said, or "independent plus," a category suitable for snow birds, for example, who want a secure summer home or for people who enjoy mid-day meals with friends.