Nursing home sale-proposal search tentatively approved

URBANA — Champaign County Board members Tuesday gave tentative approval to releasing a request for proposals for the sale of the county nursing home.

But it’s possible the 10-7 vote could be reversed next week when the board — including four Democrats missing from Tuesday night’s committee of the whole session — meets for its regular October meeting.

Voting to release the request for proposals, which could lead to the sale of the nursing home to a private operator as early as January, were all nine Republicans present and Democrat Pattsi Petrie. The other seven Democrats present voted against its release.

“I look at it as if I was trying to sell my house, to find out if there’s a market for it,” said Petrie, a Champaign Democrat. “There was an indication by the voters (in a vote in April) that we at least should explore what are the possibilities. There may be no market. We have no idea.”

Releasing the request for proposals, she said, “doesn’t mean that we sell it. It just gives us information.”

Rantoul Republican Jack Anderson agreed.

“I want to find out if this is sellable,” he said.

But a bigger showdown, Champaign Democrat Josh Hartke said Tuesday, will come at November’s board meeting when the county budget for 2018 will be voted on.

He and most other board Democrats, he predicted, will support a budget that calls for 12 months of county funding for the nursing home.

Republicans already have lined up for a budget that calls for only six months of county funding, based on the assumption that the financially troubled facility would be sold early in 2018.

“The main thing I would point out is that not once on any vote on the nursing home has the number actually gotten high enough to sell it,” said Hartke, a reference to the fact that it will take 15 of 22 board members to vote to sell the institution. “I have counted the votes. I have commitments. It’s nine, 10, 11 votes that are definitely no’s on voting it.

“You could see that here tonight. There were seven against even issuing the RFP, and I can guarantee you that at least two or three of my missing members are definite no’s on selling the nursing home.”

Hartke said the county should include 12 months of nursing home operation in next year’s budget.

“If they have the 15 votes to sell it, they’ll have the 15 votes to fix the budget. If you don’t have the 15 votes to sell it, then you don’t have the 15 votes to fix the budget back to maintain it,” he said. “There would be no way to pay off these vendors (owed about $3.5 million), no way to pay off staff, no way to take care all of our needs after the first of July.”

Also Tuesday, the board approved a resolution setting Halloween trick-or-treat hours in unincorporated areas of the county as 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31.

And the board signed off on an agreement between the county’s animal control department and the University of Illinois Small Animal Clinic for a new animal sterilization service for dogs and cats owned by county residents. Animal Control would make the appointments and collect the fee, and UI veterinary medicine students would perform the surgeries, using a mobile trailer unit about twice a month.

tkacich@news-gazette.com

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