The future of Blaine Manor and a new continuing-care retirement facility appears to be in the hands of the Blaine County Commission.
Emotions ran high as dozens of people pleaded for the county's financial support to fund a new facility in Croy Canyon during a standing-room-only hearing with the commission at the Old County Courthouse Tuesday in Hailey.
Representatives from Blaine Manor and the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, which owns 20 acres in Croy Canyon and is leading the charge for a new facility, are asking for $2.2 million from Blaine County to help fund the project.
Pam Jonas, of Hailey, spoke about the horrors of having to take a loved one outside of the valley for extended care. Jonas and many others believe that Blaine County is in danger of permanently losing an extended care facility since Blaine Manor is old and with just 25 beds is too small to meet growing demands.
"We are an aging population, and I would not want to put my daughter and her family through what we're attempting to do because there's not a facility available here or no room," she said. "Take a look at the emotional impact of what we're creating today. I feel very strongly that we need, we really truly need, to launch this as soon as possible."
Several others echoed Jonas, commenting on the devastation of having to relocate loved ones who spent all or much of their lives in Blaine County to extended care facilities in other areas.
"These people are us, our most experienced, most educated," said Rick Baird, mayor of Carey. "When loved ones are not among us you lose a big part of the family. These people are the ones who have probably bled the most into our society."
A new facility would be built on the 20 acres owned by the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation. It would include independent, assisted living and nursing care units. The total cost of the new facility, which would be LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certified, would be in the neighborhood of $22 million. Part of that would be funded by the sale of the current facility. Foundation board members claim the county's financial assistance is necessary just to keep the project afloat. The foundation is also seeking private donations.
The foundation is requesting $600,000 from the county during the 2007 budget year and for the additional $1.6 million over the next 30 months. The foundation will seek the same amount from private donors.
"We have supporters in the past who will support us in the future, but they are unwilling to move forward unless they are convinced that the county is prepared to take us all the way to the end," said Don Liebich, co-chair of Blaine Manor. "Come end of March we will be broke unless we have another source of funds, and we have ongoing commitments."
The problem is that the county has already completed its budget for 2007.
"This is a very complex issue. It's not just as easy as saying yes or no to this," Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman said. "The thing I'm personally being stuck on is the potential donors the board has in mind are not willing to take the risk of donating $2.2 million up front. If we do this now and for some reason the project is not successful, we lose $2.2 million. If we go forward we're jumping all the way into the pool. There's no halfway on this."
Bowman suggested holding a more extensive public hearing to give more citizens a chance to comment on the project and the county's financial involvement.
The public hearing will be held Jan. 4, 2007, at a yet-to-be-determined time.