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Weatherwood listed for $8 million

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    BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION Weatherwood, the 200-bed, county-owned nursing home in Weatherly, is officially for sale, the Carbon County commissioners announced today. The nursing home has been losing millions over the last few years and the county can no longer afford to operate it.
Published January 14. 2010 12:37PM

It's official.

Carbon County is selling Weatherwood, the Carbon County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Weatherly.

During the county commissioners' meeting earlier today, the board announced its decision to sell rather than retain the financially-bleeding facility. Currently, the county nursing home is looking at a $3 million deficit for 2010.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said that the steps taken "officially starts the process of listing the home for sale."

The actions the board approved include entering into an agreement with Marcus & Millichap, Real Estate Investment Services of Philadelphia to serve as the agent for the sale, hiring Ballard Spahr LLP of Philadelphia as the special counsel for the sale, retain the services of the Susquehanna Group Advisors Inc. of Harrisburg, and officially listing Weatherwood as "for sale," with a minimum purchase price tag of $8 million.

"While change is hard to accept, the commissioners believe this change will ensure this important community asset will be available to those who need it in the future," O'Gurek said. "Only by selling Weatherwood, will the facility and jobs there be preserved. The county no longer can afford to continue to send millions of taxpayers' dollars there to keep it afloat."

He noted that the county is losing $8,219 daily at the facility.

O'Gurek said that the county's decision to sell will help Weatherwood and the county in the long run.

By selling, the commissioners 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.

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, O'Gurek said.

"We believe it (the commissioners' action) is in the best interests of the county for the long term," he said.

In 2009, the Carbon County Commissioners approved seven loans from the general fund that totaled nearly $3 million. This money went to help offset rising costs at the 200-bed facility.

In early November, Commissioners O'Gurek and Wayne Nothstein said the option to sell has not been ruled out but no decision had been made.

At that time, O'Gurek reported that Weatherwood had lost $7.7 million over the last seven years, not including 2009.

On Nov. 19, the commissioners listened to a presentation by Jay Wenger, managing director of the Susquehanna Group Advisors, Inc. of Harrisburg, the company hired by the county to complete an assessment of the operations at Weatherwood. Wenger provided the county with three options: continue to operate the facility as a county-owned asset; outsource the management function; or exit the health care business.

The first two options would take anywhere between one year to 24 months before Weatherwood would possibly break even and operate in the black, Wenger reported.

O'Gurek pointed out that the first options would require a tax increase to allow the county to continue to operate the facility until it is again self-sustainable. He said that he wouldn't vote for a tax increase.

On Dec. 31, Commissioner Charles Getz, who initially was opposed to selling Weatherwood, announced that he has changed his position after looking at all the figures and is now in favor of selling.

"I can't see that turning around up there," Getz said at that meeting. "We're not going to come even close to breaking even. It's not going to happen. I'm in favor of selling, as much as I hate to see that done because it's a well-run facility."

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