Wednesday, February 29, 2012

County focuses senior-care discussion

Blaine Manor expansion would be a ‘stopgap,’ say commissioners


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Though other options remain, members of the Croy Canyon Ranch board contended during a Tuesday meeting that Croy Canyon Ranch, the plans for which are shown above, is still the best option for Blaine County seniors who need some level of care. Funding methods are still unclear as Blaine County commissioners consider their options. Courtesy graphic

Express graphic by Erik Ellison Blaine County is considering these options for senior care facilities and funding.

Blaine County commissioners narrowed in on potential options for senior care and funding Tuesday, stating that they would prefer not to issue either a temporary two-year or a permanent levy as funding for Blaine Manor or another senior facility.

The commissioners stated that no options have been taken off the table so far, but agreed to focus on three solutions for providing senior care in the Wood River Valley: a partnership between the community and a private corporation, complete private management of a facility or the creation of a hospital district to fund a public facility.

None of those options would go to fund the expansion of Blaine Manor to include assisted living as a permanent solution, the commissioners said.

"It was a stopgap," said Commissioner Larry Schoen of the manor's proposal to add 22 studio-style, assisted-living units to 20 skilled nursing beds.

The proposal would have required a $3.5 million levy over two years to construct the expanded facility, and a continuing $300,000 levy to cover the expanded manor's operating losses. Currently, the manor has an operating deficit of more than $600,000 annually.

Members of the public, including Jeanne Cassell, Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation board president, and Mike Lanahan, chair of senior care company Greystone Communities, said it wasn't clear when the proposal was made by the Blaine Manor board that the extensive project would only be an interim measure.

Lanahan said expanding Blaine Manor could have serious consequences for the larger market, including private and nonprofit groups that could be looking to provide assisted living in the valley.

"If you expand Blaine Manor, you stop a lot of other development," he said. "I don't know that I would recommend that the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation spend the money on [a business plan] if you are going to have assisted living at Blaine Manor."

Lanahan said Croy Canyon Ranch really has no business plan until the county clarifies what funding options are available—including a potential hospital taxing district to bring in funding or a general bond election to provide the capital for construction.

"There are a lot of moving parts," Lanahan said. "What we could do is put together a discussion document."

Most of the discussion surrounding Croy Canyon Ranch centered on the issue of a possible bond election to fund construction of the facility.

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The foundation was meant to raise $13 million for construction and make up the remainder by selling Blaine Manor. However, fundraising has yielded just under $4 million, and the value of Blaine Manor has dropped with the recession.

"The value of Blaine Manor is substantially reduced, along with the market for sales," said Jed Gray, a member of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation. "It would be better to float a bond that would cover the deficit there."

Commissioner Larry Schoen said he would likely not support any property tax-based funding solutions, saying that such funding would not be in the interest of the county.

"My view is that the public has very little appetite for property tax-based solutions," he said. "The investment of public assets is not to be taken lightly."

He added that he would not take those options off the table, however, as passage of a levy or a bond would eventually be put to the voters if the commissioners decide to move forward.

In addition, he admitted that a two-year levy to keep Blaine Manor operational might be necessary to allow time for another solution to be finalized.

"There might be a levy in November," he said. "An additional two-year levy may be necessary, [and] I would not like to see that taken off the table now."

The commissioners agreed that throwing open the market to private corporations may be an option, but members of the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation objected.

Croy Canyon Ranch campaign Chair Anita McCann said private corporations have profit, not quality of care, as their bottom line, and the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation has already made progress.

"Why would we go backward when we have Greystone [Communities] backing the Croy Canyon Ranch?" she said. "There's no doubt to me that our plan will be the best."

County Administrator Derek Voss said he would study all the options remaining for the county regarding senior care.

Bowman said he wanted to consider a variety of options, as the decision to be made is not easy.

"You have three people up here faced with a pretty serious decision," he said. "It doesn't seem like there is a clear right path forward."




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