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Weatherwood sale

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    AMY ZUBEK/TIMES NEWS Weatherwood, the Carbon County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center.
Published March 06. 2010 09:00AM

Nestled in the outskirts of Weatherly, Weatherwood, the Carbon County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, is home to around 150 people from all over the state.

It has served as a refuge to some, and as a social area to others.

The building itself, built decades ago, has a multitude of stories from residents past and present invisibly etched within its walls.

But over the years, as competitive nursing homes opened in the area, the population at the county-owned facility dropped, and the cost of running Weatherwood has skyrocketed.

Today, the once self-sufficient business is operating in the red, and Carbon County officials have been forced to make a choice that no one ever wants to make. They have decided to sell the county nursing home.

But what do the residents think of the impending sale of the place they call home?

Connie Bair, a two-year resident and former native of the Palmerton area, feels like she has been lied to.

"The commissioners were here about two months ago and they said they would never sell Weatherwood," she said. "They lied to us."

The 60-year-old mother of three said that she felt the commissioners should have put the question to sell the facility on an election ballot before making the decision.

"They should have seen what the county residents wanted," she said. "It's three against 58,000."

Bair said that she is happy with the overall services and hopes that doesn't change with the sale.

"They've been good to me here," she said. "The kitchen staff is excellent. I had gastric bypass surgery in October and the kitchen has treated me well."

She added that the therapy and restorative departments, as well as the maintenance crew, are great to deal with.

Gary Hulsman, a former Tamaqua native, echoed Bair's thoughts on the upcoming sale.

"They lied to us," he said. "I like it here and I want to stay in this nice place."

The 63-year-old Hulsman has called Weatherwood home for eight years and seven months, and believes this is the cleanest nursing home he has seen.

Of the services Weatherwood currently provides to Hulsman, he said they are the best.

"They take good care of you here," he said. "I really like it."

He gave the overall facility a grade of an A-plus because the staff and services meet all his needs.

Hulsman added that he hopes whoever the county sells Weatherwood to is a good group that will continue to provide the great quality of care that they enjoy now.

Charlie Kirchner, an 83-year-old former resident of Lancaster and nearly two-year resident of Weatherwood, said he thinks the commissioners are doing what they think is necessary.

"If it's a losing battle. You do what you got to do," he said.

The father of six likes the facility overall, but misses having the freedom to be outdoors and come and go as he pleases.

The future of Weatherwood has been a hot topic of discussion since last year, when the county began giving the facility loans to offset the rising costs. By the end of the year, Carbon had contributed nearly $3 million to the home.

Commissioner Charles Getz had originally voiced his opposition of ever considering to sell Weatherwood, but in late December, he said that after looking at the current and future finances at the nursing home, which weren't expected to improve, as well as the resident count, he would consider selling the facility.

"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."

At the same meeting, Commissioners Wayne Nothstein and William O'Gurek, chairman, echoed Getz's thoughts.

"We are in a situation where we cannot afford to keep it going," Nothstein said. "I think it's evident that's what will occur (selling the nursing home). Our priority will be the residents and the employees at Weatherwood. We will do whatever we can to protect those employees and residents."

On Jan. 14, the official announcement was made that the facility would be put on the market in the hopes of finding a buyer who would continue the county's operations and take care of the county residents who cannot afford a nursing home.

Commissioner O'Gurek said earlier this week, that the board is continuing to look out for residents' and employees' well being while they are looking at potential buyers.

"One thing the commissioners want to stress is that we believe Weatherwood is a community asset," he said. "Weatherwood is not closing. It is very valuable to this community in terms of meeting the residential needs of an aging population and in providing jobs for many individuals and their families. The commissioners' decision on selling the home will be based with strong consideration to which of the bidders best represents to us their willingness to look out for the residents and employees."

On Thursday, during the commissioners' meeting, the board again stressed that it was not an easy decision to sell Weatherwood, but the county could not afford to continue to lose $8,200 a day.

The first round of bids for the nursing home are currently being reviewed and a second round of bids is slated to conclude on March 12. A final decision on what company will take over operations at Weatherwood will be made by May 31, with transfer of ownership soon to follow.

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