Is the county getting out of the health care business—a financial commitment currently costing Blaine County more than $600,000 annually—a worthwhile exchange for transferring to a local nonprofit foundation the proceeds from the sale of Blaine Manor?
Blaine County voters will answer this question during a special election set for Tuesday, May 22.
The advisory vote, which only requires a simple majority to pass, would allow the county to sell the 25-bed Blaine Manor in southern Hailey and transfer responsibility for running a county nursing home to the private Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation.
In exchange for receiving the county funds, the foundation would be responsible for building and operating a new $20 million continuing care facility in Croy Canyon, west of Hailey. As a requirement under a 10-year contract for services with the county, the facility would be open for all residents in Blaine County.
If voters approve the sale, Croy Canyon Ranch, a continuing care retirement community, would replace the existing Blaine Manor. The new facility would be built one mile west of Hailey in Croy Canyon on 20 acres of land owned by the foundation.
The construction of Croy Canyon Ranch would be funded from the net proceeds from the sale of Blaine Manor as well as entry fees and separate fundraising efforts. Expected completion of the facility is estimated for sometime in 2010.
Under the foundation's agreement with the county, all current Blaine Manor residents would be transferred to the Croy Canyon Ranch once it opens for business. The service agreement with Blaine County also requires the foundation to provide 16 Medicaid beds in the skilled nursing portion of the facility.
Unlike Blaine Manor, the new Croy Canyon Ranch facility would include a mixture of independent living and assisted living facilities, rather than being solely a traditional nursing home.
The foundation is working with Greystone Communities, which operates similar senior care and independent living facilities, to develop and manage the Croy Canyon facility. William McDonough and Partners is the architecture firm responsible for designing the facility.
Currently, the cost of operating Blaine Manor is too much of a financial drain on the county, Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael said Tuesday.
"It's too large a portion of our budget," Michael said.
Another concern is the manor's deteriorating condition, she said. "The facility is falling down and is in need of major repairs."
The annual $600,000 county subsidy—which Michael describes as "conservative"—is too high compared to the Blaine County property tax base, she added. "That's out of a property tax base of $7 million."
The sale of Blaine Manor and subsequent take-over of senior nursing care in the county by the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation will prevent the county from ultimately having to eliminate these services in the county, Michael said.
"At some point we won't be able to," she explained. "We will be at a crossroads at some point in the future."
Michael said there is precedent in Blaine County for the kind of service contract the county proposes to enter into with the foundation. Its contracts for services with the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley and the Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence are just two such examples, she said.
"We contract with a number of service providers," she said.
Within 10 years, the county will have recouped the donation by simply not having to subsidize Blaine Manor, Michael said. The county has estimated the value of the building at $6 million, all of which would be transferred upon its sale to the foundation, she said.
At a recent meeting of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation's special election committee, foundation co-president Jeanne Cassell spoke optimistically of the pending vote.
"We're hoping for a strong vote," Cassell said. "We'd like to be able to say the community is behind us."
The sale is something the entire county can get behind, she said. "We're guaranteeing to take all the residents of Blaine Manor."
There will be a wide range of prices in the independent living and assisted living portions of Croy Canyon Ranch, she added.
"We are going to be serving the broad base of the county," Cassell said.
The County Commission approved a resolution on March 20 setting the date for the election. State law requires the sale of county-owned hospitals to be approved by a majority of county voters.
On May 22, polls will be open for the election from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee voting is already taking place, and will continue until the day before the election.
Information on polling locations for the May 22 election can be found at the county's Web site at www.co.blaine.id.us/. From there, click on the "Blaine Manor Special Election" link.