Champaign County Board Approves More Loans For Nursing Home

The Champaign County Board, in its final meeting of the 2017-18 term.

Champaign County Board members applaud departing chairman Pius Weibel during their meeting Tuesday night, the final one of the 2017-18 term.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The Champaign County Board voted Tuesday night to provide more money to the county nursing home, settling two lawsuits, forgiving old loans, and agreeing to loan the home additional money until a pending sale to a private operator becomes official.

The additional money being loaned from the county’s General Corporate Fund is up to $200 thousand a month for four months, from November to February. County officials say that money is needed to keep the nursing home going while the sale of the facility to companies controlled by William Rothner is finalized. County administrator Deb Busey said finalization has been delayed for a second time, while the facility addresses outstanding problems tagged by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In the meantime, the county board’s Deputy Chair for Finance, Stephanie Fortado (D-Champaign) said the nursing home is experiencing serious cash-flow problems, threatening its ability to pay for core expenses, such as utilities and nursing staff payrolls.

“We almost got the water shut off,” said county board member Kyle Patterson (D-Champaign), who said the nursing home could be forced to close if the additional loans weren’t approved.

Other county board members on the Republican side of the aisle were angry about yet another delay in the closing of the sale. When the county board approved the nursing home sale to Rothner’s companies in May, the sale was expected to be finalized by the end of July. More recently, the closing was expected in November. The proposal for the additional loan assumes the sale will now close in December, but recognizes Rothner’s option to use extensions to delay his takeover of the facility until the end of February.

“I just wonder how much more are we going to flush down a toilet here?” said Republican Stanley Harper of rural Ogden. Fellow Republican Jim Goss of Mahomet shared Harper’s dismay, and placed blame on SAK Management, the firm hired to operate the nursing home during its final months of county ownership.

“The company is not doing their job,” said Goss. “They’ve not been held accountable. We have no way to hold them accountable. The sole reason, in my opinion, and this is one person’s opinion, this is not going to close this month, is because of our management firm.”

Although it was implied in the proposal’s original language, county board members approved an amendment from Goss that states directly that the new loan to the county nursing home will be capped “for a maximum 800 thousand dollars over the 4 month period” of November through February.

The county board also voted to forgive $500 thousand in previous loans to the county nursing home.

And the county board also voted to settle two lawsuits stemming from the deaths of residents at the nursing home.

One settlement was for $175 thousand to settle a lawsuit with the family of Caroline Scalzo, who died following a fall at the nursing home in 2014.

The larger settlement was for one million dollars, to the family of Sonya Kington. She died after being left unattended in a hot outdoor courtyard at the nursing home in June of last year. The Illinois Department of Public Health has previously fined the nursing home 25-thousand dollars in connection with Kington’s death.

The votes came during the final meeting of the Champaign County Board in its current form. Newly elected board members will be seated on the county board at an organizational meeting on Monday, December 3rd. The board said farewell to departing members Tuesday night, with cake and congratulatory resolutions for four members who were stepping down,

One of them was Chairman Pius Weibel, who opted not to seek reelection, after spending all but two of the last 14 years on the county board.

The Urbana Democrat is leaving just as Champaign County prepares to swear-in its first-ever elected county executive, fellow Democrat Darlene Kloeppel. Weibel said he was preparing some materials for the incoming Kloeppel, and recommended a low-key beginning for her.

“Come in quietly, work quietly,” advised Weibel, and get the feel of things before you start making changes.”

A resolution passed by the county board praised Weibel for his “stable and measured leadership”.

The county board also passed resolutions honoring departing members Jack Anderson, Max Mitchell and Pattsi Petrie, and retiring Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh.

Anderson, a Republican from Rantoul, who is stepping down as he had planned, after one term, served as a county board representative on the advisory board of the Champaign County Nursing Home. He sees the sale of the facility as the most positive accomplishment he was involved in.

We either turn it around or can we sell it,” said Anderson of the county’s options with the nursing home. “And we tried many things to try to turn it around, all unsuccessful.  You know, government should not be running a business, competing against private business. And based on that philosophy, I think the sale’s appropriate.”

With the nursing  home sale already approved by the county board and the Rothner companies, Anderson said finalizing the sale was “just the matter of closing up the loose ends.”

Story source: WILL