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Motion to continue running county nursing home tabled

After about an hour of discussion Tuesday, the St. Croix County Board voted to postpone action on a motion to keep the county-owned nursing home in New Richmond open and operating as it is.

In the meantime a sub-committee is making contact with other non-profit operators to explore the possibility of developing a "private/ public partnership" to run a nursing home and perhaps an assisted living facility.

Earlier this summer, a proposal for Christian Community Home of Hudson take over the county home, build a new facility and receive a $2.75 million tax subsidy, paid over five years, fell through when the New Richmond City Council voted to oppose privatization.

On Tuesday County Board members voted 17-12 to postpone action on the motion made by Vice Chairman Richard King, town of Star Prairie, to keep the nursing home under county ownership and operation.

"I would hope that Hudson would remember that we helped them and would step up and help us also," said New Richmond Supervisor Esther Wentz. She reminded her fellow supervisors that "out county" board members listened to Hudson residents when the board opposed a casino in Hudson.

This isn't a Hudson versus New Richmond issue, it's a county issue, responded Hudson Supervisor Sharon Norton-Bauman.

"It is not a turf issue," agreed Supervisor Daryl Standafer, North Hudson.

The issue, he said, is whether the county should be using tax dollars to subsidize a nursing home that competes with private businesses.

There are eight other nursing homes in St. Croix County that use the same funding formula the county facility uses, said Standafer, "but the other eight do not receive any subsidy from the property tax levy."

"I think we need to be responsible to the elderly people in our county," said Wentz. "They count on us and without us, they don't have a lot of people in their corner."

The discussion has been framed by some as a plan to close the nursing home "and throw these old people out in the street," but it was never that, said Supervisor Ron Raymond, town of Hudson.

"We're looking for a better way to provide a good level of service which we don't have to subsidize with county money," he said.

Health and Human Services Director Fred Johnson said his committee has given a sub-committee four weeks to look into a private/ public partnership. A handful of non-profit companies have been contacted and may be interested in such an arrangement, he said.