Monday, June 08, 2009

Spotlight - Journal Star Editorial Page Saturday, June 6 Edition

In year 2000, Bel-Wood Nursing Home census was close to capacity: 290 clients in a 300-bed facility. In May of 2003, it was 271; this year it was 266 - 15 Medicare, 54 private pay and 197 Medicaid. No growth, no waiting list. Budget estimates were to average 275 clients. The board and administration wants a new building to house up to 230 clients.

Hard constructions costs range from $26-$29 million; soft costs will make it $34-$37 million. Renovation of the present facility is estimated to be $27-$29 million. The local company we hired to oversee the construction did both estimates. Their fee is 4.5 percent of overall costs, with add-ons.

In 2007, a paid firm did a study for renovating Bel-Wood, including sprinklers, new roof, plumbing, electrical, etc. The estimated cost was $12.5 million. With lost revenues and soft costs, our new consultants now say the actual costs would be $21 million. The new building's soft and hard costs are pegged at $37 million - a spread of $16 million. Not chump change when the county is facing a deficit of almost $4 million.

The bond to finance this new building will be 30 years, with principal and interest payments of between $2.1-$2.6 million per year, totaling $64-80 million depending on the bond rate.

In 2003, the county asked for a tax increase to cover Bel-Wood's operations. The referendum read: "Shall the maximum rate of the tax levied by Peoria County for the purposes of MAINTAINING a County nursing home, Bel-Wood, be increased from .025% to .06%?" (emphasis mine). It passed by a 3-to-1 margin. Bel-Wood collected $2,971,245.00 last year in property taxes.

I suggest that if that money had been spent to maintain the building, it should be in pretty good condition. It is only 40-some years old. Yet our consultants and our administration say Bel-Wood is in "poor condition."

On Dec. 30, 2007, County Administrator Patrick Urich was quoted saying the county wanted to use the 2003 tax, "for capital improvements or build a new building." Last week, the Facilities Committee voted 4-1 to recommend that a new building be built. The administration and most of the board believe the 2003 referendum and the later "public facility tax" give the county the authority to do as it wishes.

More and more I am hearing that if we don't do certain things as Bel-Wood, we will not be competitive against the private sector. But that's not its job. Private nursing homes aren't encumbered by museums, jails, juvenile detention centers, roadways, health departments, landfills and elections. Bel-Wood was to be a safety net for the poor.

Many taxpayers like myself believe that times have changed and nursing homes belong to the private sector. With the county running a deficit, the world in a recession with no real "promise" of an end in sight, I believe we should do the necessary renovations - new roof and sprinkler system, mainly - and not add another potentially high cost to the community, or we should sell the business to the highest responsible bidder and write the contract to allow all residents to leave by attrition and reserve a specified number of beds for Medicaid residents.

From: Merle Widmer []
Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2009 2:36 PM
To: Chris J. Kaergard
Subject: Re: Bel-Wood Spotlight piece

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