Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No levy on May ballot

County still considering senior-care options


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

During a meeting Tuesday, the Blaine County commissioners decided not to put a two-year levy for continued funding of the Blaine Manor senior-care facility on the ballot in May, but left open the possibility of doing so in November.

The decision came after the commissioners laid out their options for funding senior care, including a potential general bond to fund construction of Croy Canyon Ranch west of Hailey.

The commissioners and County Administrator Derek Voss made it clear that no option—including closure of the Blaine Manor skilled nursing facility or another two-year levy to fund the manor's operating losses—was off the table.

However, Commissioner Tom Bowman said the board could agree that Blaine Manor in its current form was not financially sustainable, and that some alternative would have to be found.

One solution suggested by Bowman and supported by Commissioner Larry Schoen would be to issue a bond to fund construction of Croy Canyon Ranch, a tiered-care facility expected to be financially self-sustaining after construction.

So far, the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation has raised almost $4 million of the $13 million needed for the facility's construction, but is unlikely to raise the remaining funding in time to have the facility open when the Blaine Manor levy runs out at the beginning of 2014.

One of the benefits of this option is that after the facility is built, it would not require any further county support. The closest alternative—expanding Blaine Manor to include assisted living apartments—would cost the county $300,000 a year after the first three years.

Another option considered was to simply renew the two-year levy approved in 2010, which would allow both the foundation and the county more time to debate the options and possibly build a replacement facility.

But Commissioner Larry Schoen said another two-year levy would put the county in the same situation that it currently finds itself.

"We have a facility that is old and in need of ongoing capital improvements, the systems are prone to breaking down," he said. "It's very problematic to go to the voters seeking a two-year levy."

Jed Gray, a member of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, said a "Band-Aid" levy should be avoided, and the foundation has a new plan that could allow the building to be constructed sooner than expected. He said the foundation plans to present the plan at the next commissioners meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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