Monday, July 05, 2010

Roger Monroe on Bel-Wood, Peoria County Nursing Home

Here's what Roger Monroe, who writes a monthly column for the local newspaper, Community Word, wrote in the March 2003 in his column, "Straight Talk", urging voters to vote "no" on the referendum to continue to MAINTAIN Bel-Wood by raising property taxes:

"Vote 'No' on Bel-wood tax -- as well intentioned as the BW tax levy proposal is, I think voters should reject it come April 1. TOO MUCH..TOO SOON. For starters Peoria County Board Members, who approved putting the referendum on the ballot, are asking for too much money during these hard and difficult times. Currently, the Peoria County Board and Bel-Wood are gobbling up the full 2 1/2% levy to the tune of over $400,000. Now they want to triple that tax rate to 6% providing another $800,000! This means taxpayer would be paying some $1.2 million (now $3 million in direct and indirect property taxes, in 2009, my quote) annually to support a nursing home with less than 300 residents. That's too much, too soon. I ARGUED that when the large increase idea was presented to the County Board."

Monroe continues, "My 2nd reason", for opposing the large jump in the BW tax levy for (property) tax payers is based on the belief the home still suffers management problems ($700,000+ in lawsuits settled recently, my quote). It needs to prove to taxpayers administrative efficiency. I can't ignore its history of state violations, poor survey results, including loss of accreditation, and numerous complaints about resident care. If taxpayers give $1.2 million(actually $3 million in year 2009, my quotes) without demanding better management, look for the county to seek more money within 5 years." (Actually 6 years, the new taxes starting coming in in 2004, and now seeking roughly $54 million plus, approximately $49 million in borrowed money, my quotes)

End of Monroe's quotes in April 2003.

In May, 2003, Monroe wrote in the CW, "Bel-Wood Success - Congratulations are due those who worked so hard for passage of the tax increase. Readers of my column know I didn't support the increase, etc......Further, I keep hearing that BW is accepting residents who have lived outside of Peoria County, so taxpayers are subsidizing their care too. If true, (it is, about 24 residents do not live in Peoria County as of 2010, my quote) the counties where they live should share the cost. (They don't, my quote) While I congratulate the the supporters of the BW tax they were a little disingenuous in suggesting BW might have to close if the referendum didn't pass.(The wording on the Referendum said 'To Maintain BelWood'. it wasn't maintained except for life-safety issues, my quotes) Monroe continues, "Wrong, Bel-wood cannot close or even be leased without a referendum."

In April 2002 Monroe had written in the CW, "The Bel-Wood Fiasco" concluding his lengthy diatribe by concluding "here's another example of why your (BW) taxes are so high".

More Monroe quotes. "I hate to bring it up since some (JS?, my quote, nothing has changed at the JS) like to keep it out of the news, but BW lost close to $2 million last year. One Peoria County Official told me if BW can increase its current 263 census, (its 231 as of June 30, 2010), to 280, the nursing home will begin to show a profit. I don't know what he is smoking because I can remember when the home had 290 residents and it was losing $500,000 a year."

So these are Monroe's writings back in 2002 and 2003. Yet, here is what he wrote in the July 2010 Community Word just off the press:

"Widmer Oposes? (It's 2 pp's, Roger) Bel-Wood. Peoria County Board Member Merle Widmer is a nay-sayer. He was strongly opposed to the RP that continues to be one of the more successful riverfront ventures." (successful, really??? with 35% coming from across the river and in competition with the local tax-paying private sector while park services decline, my quote) Monroe continues, "He's fired off more than one salvo against BW. But he isn't the first. I remember when Gary Stella (and, also, Board Chairman Jim Christopher, my quote) who both questioned the wisdom of the county and its taxpayers subsidizing the nursing facility. Widmer's argument, though based on some erroneous statement's, deserves serious discussion by county officials." (Erroneous, I have my facts all documented, my quotes).

Nowhere in Monroe's July, 2010 column does he mention that he recommended to his readers to oppose the 2003 referendum. Interesting. Actually I strongly supported the 2003 referendum and have a Certificate of Appreciation from BW. The referendum was to "Maintain" BW.

We didn't maintain the facility.

Administration and the board allowed it to deteriorate, rather than maintain. We received grant money for a Sprinkler System in 2007 (we used it for architects, consultants, engineers, for a new building instead) and we could have installed a new roof anytime. Electrical and plumbing should have been replaced or maintained just as we did to the original Courthouse that was built about the same time as Bel-Wood. After all, BW was supported by $17 million in property taxes, both direct and indirect from 2004-2009.

Monroe continues, "I chaired the Health Services Committee and the first referendum committee seeking approval for a tax increase. It passed by a 2-1 margin." (Note Monroe doesn't mention that he urged voters to vote "No" on the 2003 referendum). Monroe continues, "Things are different today. Medicare and Medicaid make up the the vast majority of the daily census. (Actually, Medicaid patients total around 165, private pay around 50 and Medicare around 20, my quotes) Meanwhile, the County Board has approved plans for a new building. (224 beds, my quotes) People may remember the first estimated cost was $28 million, (actually $26-29 million, my quotes) yet not a shovel has been turned and now we hear quotes of $54million. Like a lot of new construction, when finished, the cost will be higher. Medical care costs are sky rocketing. Can taxpayers afford to support BelWood?"

End of his July 2010 "Straight Talk" column.

For those of you who might be interested in reading "Costs too high for county to keep supporting Bel-Wood nursing home", as I wrote 'In the Spotlight' issue of the JS on 6/13/10, I will reprint it on this site.

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