The sale of Weatherwood, the Carbon County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Weatherly, is generating a lot of interest, county officials say.

During the Caron County Commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said that as of Thursday, 47 interested companies have signed confidentiality agreements, which allows them to gain all access to the information on Weatherwood; and a total of 10 tours of the facility have either taken place or are scheduled. Bids for the facility will be accepted sometime in February, when the first round of bidding opens.

"As we anticipate getting those bids at a minimum of $8 million, some of the things the commissioners will be looking for will be discussed next week," he said, noting that the commissioners plan to create a set of criteria for evaluation that will be looked at during the bid process. "We are concerned about who buys that home and their potential to keep it operating in the best interest of its residents and employees."

Areas that the county will look at when determining the sale include the bidder's experience and reputation in the field; knowledge of the services provided by the home; the strength of the company's financing; and meeting the objectives of the county.

"These things will be taken into consideration every bit as much as the price will be taken into consideration," O'Gurek said. "We're not committed to selling Weatherwood to the highest bidder. In this instance, we're committed to selling it to the company that meets our minimum bid and has the goals of the county in mind.

"We want whoever buys that home to make a commitment to us that they will take care of the indigent and poor and the people who need that; and also the county residents who are Medicaid and Medicare eligible on a regular basis. It's not going to be the case of selling to the highest bidder."

O'Gurek added that the county nursing home has been receiving praise from companies who toured the facility.

"It's going well," he said. "The fact that we have so much interest leads us to have a lot of optimism of that sale."

He then asked Randall Smith, county administrator, to give an update on the tours.

Smith explained that the home is receiving compliments.

"There's no question that the comments we are receiving from every company that we provided tours to are that the home presents itself very well," he said. "That's a credit to the Weatherwood staff, who have maintained the facility since it was built in 1972. It's a very positive impression that the building is giving and I believe the employees give a very positive impression to any perspective buyer as well."

Smith said he thinks the interest for the facility is going to be very high because this is a "rare opportunity for companies to expand or operate a new nursing home."

He noted that there is a moratorium on beds in nursing homes in Pennsylvania so the sale is attracting companies that wish to grow.

O'Gurek ended the conversation by stating that the "bottom line (for the county) is to keep Weatherwood the community asset that it is in terms of providing for generations ahead of us that will need it and providing jobs for the people who are currently in those positions."

By selling, the commissioners have said it will help sustain the jobs at Weatherwood because union contracts will be sold with the facility. Residents will also not have to worry about being transferred out of the facility because it is not closing.

The county will also not need to provide millions in extra funds throughout the year to support the facility financially; and the sale would generate $140,000 in tax revenue $18,700 for the county, $13,000 for the borough of Weatherly and $108,000 for the Weatherly Area School District.

Currently, the nursing home is operating on a $3 million deficit.

Over the next few months, the county will be working diligently to market the nursing home to thousands of entities in the nursing home field.

Offers will be accepted in two rounds. Initial offers will be accepted until 5 p.m., Feb. 26.

After the initial offers are received, the board and the companies hired to handle the sale will review all offers. The second round of bidding will then begin. The initial round will be used to weed out unsuitable buyers.

The second round, which will be for final bids, will conclude at 5 p.m. March 12. The board will then again review all offers and determine which entity would make the best owner to take over the facility and provide continued care to the residents.

A final decision will be made by May 31, with closing and transfer of ownership by June 30.

Carbon County Commissioners officially put Weatherwood up for sale on Jan. 14, after they took action to enter into an agreement with Marcus & Millichap, Real Estate Investment Services of Philadelphia to serve as the agent for the sale; hire Ballard Spahr LLP of Philadelphia as the special counsel for the sale, and retain the services of the Susquehanna Group Advisors Inc. of Harrisburg.