WATERLOO — Care for residents of the Country View nursing home and the fate of its employees may soon be in the hands of a private company.
The Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to sell the 168-bed county-owned nursing and mental health care center to Pritok Capital, based in Skokie, Ill., for $4 million.
Closing is slated to take place on or before Dec. 31.
The deal unburdens the county budget of what has become a $150,000-a-month property tax liability while preventing Pritok from displacing existing residents against their will for at least 10 years.
But the final sale price is below the $5.6 million Pritok initially offered when bidding on Country View, and the contract does not require the company to retain existing staff or meet minimum wage or benefit levels for workers.
A handful of Country View employees attended the meeting to criticize the board’s handling of the sale process and question when they will learn details about Pritok’s hiring plans and compensation package.
“God don’t like ugly, and this whole thing has been ugly from start until now,” said employee Melissa Lee, who said it was unfair for Country View staff, residents and family members to follow the process through media accounts.
Pritok agreed in the contract to “the extent practicable all persons who are residents of the nursing home on the closing date shall continue to be residents after the closing date, and no resident shall be transferred by purchaser to another facility without his or her express, written consent.”
Shirley Mae Patchin, a longtime Country View volunteer and advisory board member, said she was pleased that provision survived the contract negotiations.
“At least we’re going to know that those residents — some of them have been out there 40, 50 years — are still going to have a home for the next 10 years … maybe longer,” Patchin said.
Supervisor Chris Schwartz cast the lone vote against the deal, suggesting the county should have attempted to turn Country View around before selling it.
Schwartz said employee benefit packages Pritok provides at other nursing homes it operates are subpar compared with those at Country View.
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“It’s not at all comparable between our health care package and their health care package that they offered,” he said. “They had very high deductibles, very high premiums.”
Attorney and former U.S. Rep. Dave Nagle also spoke against the sale.
“I think the care of those people and the quality of life of the people that work for us in the county are more important than saving a few tax dollars for the wealthiest on their property taxes,” Nagle said. “Don’t take this step; you’ll regret it.”
But Supervisor Linda Laylin defended the sale as the best way to ensure Country View stays open and the residents in place.
Laylin joined Supervisors Craig White and Frank Magsamen in saying Pritok is hoping to hire most of Country View’s existing workers when they are laid off by the county the day of the sale.
“My thoughts are they’re going to keep 99.9 percent of you because they’re going to need you to operate the business,” White said.
The reduction in the original purchase price from $5.6 million to $4 million was a bone of contention for some opposed the sale.
Eric Johnson, an attorney negotiating the deal for the county, said Pritok originally sought a larger reduction after a state audit slashed the amount it would reimburse Country View for certain residents, essentially devaluing the property after the initial bid was made.
Mark Myers, a broker representing the county on the deal, said neither of the other two original bidders were still interested in buying Country View.
“While we’re not happy with the $4 million, we do think that the board should accept it or choose to go back out to market and see what else is out there,” Myers said. “But we’re just afraid that might bring worse results with these lower reimbursement rates and lower occupancy.”
County officials plan to encourage Pritok to meet with current employees at the facility to explain the transition process.
Once Pritok acquires Country View, Dubuque County will have the only remaining county-owned nursing home in Iowa.