Indecision remains over selling Vermilion County nursing home

DANVILLE — Just days from voting on whether to sell Vermilion Manor Nursing Home, some Vermilion County Board members are still undecided on whether to accept the private company's offer that will require a two-thirds majority to pass.

"I'm torn," said Mike Dodge, a Democrat county board member in District 7.

Dodge has concerns with how a sale to a private company could affect Vermilion Manor's employees and residents. But he's also concerned about the financial drain on the county if it does not sell the nursing home, which has struggled for years to stay in the black.

Dodge said Monday that he's still seeking information to help him make his decision, and he definitely wants to know the dollar amount of the private company's offer, which has not been disclosed publicly or to the entire county board, only to the board members on the nursing home committee, which voted 6-2 last week to accept the offer from FNR Healthcare Group, headquartered in Skokie. FNR owns the Gilman Healthcare Center in Gilman and Champaign-Urbana Nursing and Rehab in Savoy and partners with Premier Healthcare Management to operate its facilities.

The Vermilion County Board will vote on the offer during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the county board meeting room on the second floor of the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville.

The resolution needs 18 of 27 votes to pass, and board Chairman Gary Weinard said factoring in those board members whom he expects to vote no and those board members who cannot attend the meeting, it could be close vote.

Weinard said he anticipates there could be as many as five no votes, and one board member will be out of the country, and at least two others had conflicts but were either going to attempt to rearrange their schedules or possibly attend the meeting electronically.

Board members John Criswell, D-District 5, and Daniel Walls Sr., D-District 8, voted no to selling Vermilion Manor at last week's nursing home committee meeting.

And in addition to Dodge, board Member Corky Nightlinger, D-District 5, said he is also on the fence. A longtime member of the nursing home committee, Nightlinger has also been a longtime advocate of the facility remaining county-owned.

He said Monday that if the state of Illinois would reimburse the county for Medicaid on a timely basis, the county wouldn't even be having this vote.

"Right now I couldn't even tell you how I'm going to vote," he said.

Other board members are more certain.

Ivadale Foster, D-District 8, said she is definitely in favor of having a county-owned nursing home, and she doesn't believe it will ever be the same if it's sold to a private company. But, she said, it needs to be sold, because the county cannot afford it.

"But I am for selling it, because they are not able to keep it up," she said.

After a cash-flow crisis at the nursing home more than a year ago because of slow Medicaid reimbursements from the state, the county board decided to ask voters last November for the authority to sell the nursing home. The majority of voters granted the county that authority, and the county hired Marcus and Millichap, a firm specializing in transactions involving nursing homes, which helped market the facility.

Earlier this year, the county received five offers to buy Vermilion Manor, but county officials narrowed it down to two, FNR and IDE Management Group. IDE is a private company headquartered in Greenfield, Ind., that owns North Logan Healthcare, 801 N. Logan Ave., Danville, and Paris Healthcare in Paris. And last week, county officials recommended the higher bid by FNR, which the nursing home committee also recommended.

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