In an effort to save money, the Frederick Board of County Commissioners is moving forward with the possible sale or lease of the county-owned nursing home and assisted-living facility for low-income seniors.
The move, under consideration since 2007, would turn over the operation of the facility to a private company.
Commissioners are hoping to stop paying a $5-million annual subsidy for Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and the Montevue Assisted Living as early as next year.
Commissioner say they will put any money they save toward an anticipated budget shortfall in fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, 2013.
Commissioners believe now is the best time to market the homes to potential buyers because in July residents and staff moved into a new 40,000-square-foot assisted-living facility and 116,000-square-foot nursing home, both on Rosemont Avenue in Frederick. The construction was approved by the previous board, but the current commissioners, who were elected in 2010, have favored privatization.
The county spent $30 million building the two new homes, which sit on land adjacent to the former buildings, and were outdated, cramped and inefficient.
“We have discussed this for years,” Commissioner C. Paul Smith (R) said at a meeting Thursday. “It’s been a $5-million-a-year drain that’s just way beyond the magnitude of what I think was initially envisioned.”
In the current fiscal 2013, the county is slated to spend $1,678,665 to operate Citizens and another $2,512,022 to run Montevue, for a total of $4,190,687.
Since 2000, the county has spent $53.5 million operating both homes, according to county figures.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to hire a licensed real estate broker with experience in the marketing and sale of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to help with the sale of the two homes.
Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) and commissioners Kirby Delauter (R) and Smith voted in favor.
Commissioner Billy Shreve (R), who abstained from voting because he is a commercial real estate agent, said he was in favor of selling the two facilities.
Commissioner David P. Gray (R) was not at Thursday’s meeting.
Gray asked his board colleagues prior to the meeting to postpone the discussion so he could be there. Gray said residents need more time to digest and weigh in on the proposals before any action is taken, according to an email. Gray could be not be reached for comment Friday.
But Young, who as president of the board sets the meeting agendas, said the discussion would still take place, but no final decisions on privatization would be made, the email said.
Young said at the meeting that time is of the essence, and the board needs to make a decision because the county’s contract with LW Consulting Inc., the Harrisburg, Pa., based-firm that manages the two homes, expires on June 30 of next year.
Finding a broker and securing a lease or sale could take about three months, County Manager Lori Depies said.
The nursing home in particular has faced a series of challenges dating back to 2002, when it was cited for a lengthy list of infractions and deficiencies by the state’s Office of Healthcare Quality.
Those infractions were addressed, but in 2007 former Commissioner Charles A. Jenkins (R) caused a stir when he proposed soliciting bids from private firms to run the home.
Jenkins believed that county funds should be spent elsewhere. He said Friday that he agrees with the current board’s decision to look into selling the two homes.
“I think it is right to explore all the options,” Jenkins said. “We now have a more marketable facility than what we had before. It was substandard and would have been impossible to sell, with the old infrastructure. I think it is the responsible thing to look at all options.”
The assisted-living facility includes 75 private efficiency apartments — 15 more than the former building. Each room has a small refrigerator, microwave oven, counter space, bathroom, bed and dresser. The two-story building also includes a sun porch and living and dining rooms. The cost for a room at Montevue is $145 per day for low-income residents.
The nursing home includes 75 private rooms, a special-care unit, an Alzheimer’s unit, a short-term rehabilitation unit, sun porch, library, and living and dining rooms. Residents can use Medicare and Medicaid, private payments and insurance to pay for their care in the nursing home.
Young said he wants to stipulate that if the nursing home is sold, the new owner would continue to accept Medicaid payments — a requirement aimed at continuing the mission of providing care for the needy.
A combined 214 residents live in both homes.
There are currently 306 employees working at both facilities, said Mitch Hose, director of the county’s Human Resource Division.
There was no discussion Thursday as to whether employees would lose their jobs, or be hired by a new private company.
In fiscal 2012, the commissioners reduced salaries and benefits for the employees, saving the county about $625,000 annually. The nursing home’s board of trustees also turned over management of the Citizens and Montevue to LW Consulting.
“Many past boards of commissioners have raised concerns about the subsidies for these facilities, and now the majority of this board wishes to take proactive steps in considering our options for the future,” Young said in a news release. “Our taxpayers deserve to know what the options are and we will be the first board to take action and bring some predictability, stability and conclusion to the issue.”