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County continues talks with nursing home suitors

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Although Christian Community Home of Hudson has pulled out of the running, two other businesses have shown preliminary interest in taking over the St. Croix County Nursing Home.

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Tuesday morning the County Board voted unanimously to appoint a new committee to work with interested businesses, hold open meetings and involve New Richmond city representatives until and if permission is given to pursue negotiations in closed session. Authorization to close the meetings could be given by either the Health and Human Services Board or the full County Board.

"We are taking the nursing home in the direction of a sale in appointing a committee," warned Supervisor Bill Cranmer, Hudson. "It seems to be that this is the direction we are going, and we should recognize that."

County Board Chairman Buck Malick disagreed with that interpretation of the board's intent.

"We're still discussing the shape of the ice cream cone... we have not made a decision to buy one," he said.

Earlier this summer an ad hoc committee was set to present a proposal to turn the home over to CCH, but that offer was withdrawn after the New Richmond City Council voted to oppose privatization.

More recently a different three-person ad hoc committee has been meeting to consider other options, reported Health and Human Services Director Fred Johnson. He said the committee -- which is committed to assuring continued services to Medicaid patients and keeping the facility in New Richmond -- has asked potential vendors to submit letters of interest.

Johnson said CCH has indicated it won't do that, but "letters of preliminary interest" have been received from Health Dimensions Group, which operates a facility in Sheboygan; and Presbyterian Homes, which operates The Deerfield in New Richmond.

Supervisor Tom Caflisch, River Falls, who had served on the earlier "request for proposals" committee, suggested that it be reactivated.

The board voted instead to appoint a new seven-member committee, which includes five members of the old committee (supervisors Caflisch, Gordon Awsumb, Esther Wentz, Don Jordan and Stan Krueger) plus Supervisor John Borup, who is the retired head of the Health and Human Services Department; and Dr. Glenn Hoberg, a member of the Health and Human Services Board.

Tuesday's discussion was far reaching. These are some of the points raised by various supervisors:

  • Supervisor Buzz Marzolf, town of Troy, referred to a vote taken by the board in December 2001 to downsize and then build a new nursing home. He wondered why that wasn't pursued.

    The decision to remodel the home replaced the intent to build, replied Malick.

    "We would not have spent the money to remodel if we were going to abandon the old structure," said Malick.

  • Marzolf said he recently learned that Spring Valley is applying for federal funds to build a new three-tier operation that will include a nursing home, an assisted living facility and intermediate care. He wondered why the county hasn't sought that kind of money.
  • Supervisor Dick King, town of Star Prairie, suggested the county sell some of the 600 acres it owns in New Richmond, use the money to build a new nursing home and "keep our elderly happy and healthy."
  • Supervisor Sharon Norton-Bauman, Hudson, objected to having the city of New Richmond too involved in negotiations. Unless the city is willing to come up with money to help operate the home, it should have no say in its future, she said.
  • Supervisor Chuck Struemke, town of Troy, suggested the county home stop accepting new residents. The nursing home is licensed for 72 patients, but now has only 64.

    Rejecting new residents "would be the same as locking the doors and saying we're done," and that's not what the board intends, replied Wentz.

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