Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Croy Canyon requests $29.2M bond

County to weigh senior care options


The Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation submitted an informal proposal to the county last week asking for a general obligation bond over the next 35 years to pay for construction of a tiered-care senior living facility.

The proposal is in response to a request for information from the county regarding building a skilled nursing facility in Blaine County. The levy that is currently keeping Blaine Manor, the county's only skilled nursing facility, operational will run out in January 2014.

The foundation's proposal accounts for $9 million in private donations and a $29.2 million general obligation bond to pay for the facility's construction and other expenses. Blaine Manor's assets would remain with Blaine County.

Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation Executive Director Kathleen Eder said the bond would cost taxpayers a little more than $17 annually per $100,000 in property valuation. Because it's a bond, not a levy, the expense of the bond's interest would be rolled into the county's other expenses rather than collected under additional property taxes.

However, Commissioner Larry Schoen said he was unsatisfied with Croy Canyon's proposal on several levels, such as its business plans and ideas regarding who would own and oversee the facility.

"The taxpayers are guaranteeing the debt, and you are showing an operating loss," he said. "The question of ownership is not addressed in your proposal. Even the information about a governance model is not clear from the proposal. That needs to be solidified."

Eder said the facility would have roughly $6 million in reserves at any given point.

"There is plenty of buffer to offset losses," she said, adding that the plan is conservative regarding revenue.

She also said in a later interview that the question of ownership was left vague to allow the commissioners to weigh their options.

"This was supposed to be just the RFI," she said.

Commissioner Tom Bowman said he, too, was concerned about what the general obligation bond would mean for future boards of commissioners and whether it would really end the county's role in senior care.

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"When we're all gone and someone else is sitting in our chairs, [say] Croy Canyon can't break even," he said. "What happens? How do we have a finite end in the county's involvement in this?"

The Blaine Manor board did not submit a formal response to the request for information, but did send a letter to the county commissioners requesting that it have a role in evaluating the responses.

"Our real goal is to assist the county commissioners with their goal—compassionate and safe care for our frail and elderly," said Blaine Manor board Chair Marsha Riemann during Tuesday's meeting.

She suggested creating an advisory board made up of Blaine Manor board members, staff, one county commissioner and County Administrator Derek Voss to review the responses.

"The board would review the RFI with knowledge and expertise and could come up with a path for Blaine Manor," she said. "If we presented an RFI, it would cause us not to be objective. It would put us in a poor position."

But Bowman pointed out that the county had never contemplated creating such a board.

"I don't believe that this board has requested help from the Blaine Manor board in evaluating [the RFI]," he said. "If we had 30 applications or 20 and we had packets that needed to be sifted through, I could see the value in that. But really, we have two [proposals]."

The commissioners agreed that they would likely ask for input from the Blaine Manor board, but would not form a formal advisory board as the decision should rest with the commissioners.

"This board is the board that needs to make the decisions," Schoen said. "There is too much at stake."

The commissioners said they will review all the information in detail before deliberating and choosing an option to focus on during its public meeting next Tuesday.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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