TILTON — Vermilion County officials have confirmed that 39 employees at Vermilion Manor Nursing Home have not been offered employment contracts by the new owner, FNR Healthcare Group, which took ownership of the facility Thursday.
"It's a complete shock to us in the county," said Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard, who heard Wednesday that some employees were not being offered employment by the new company and after some phone calls late Wednesday got confirmation that 39 would not be offered new contracts. Weinard said county officials don't know if those are part-time or full-time or a combination and what departments those positions are in, although they have confirmed maintenance workers are in that number.
FNR is a private company that owns other nursing home facilities, including ones in Savoy and Gilman. The company is headquartered in Skokie and partners with Premier Healthcare Management to operate its health care facilities.
Barak Baever, an owner of Premier Healthcare Management, had an interview scheduled with The News-Gazette on Thursday morning to discuss future plans for the nursing home, and Baever canceled the interview.
Officials with Premier could not be reached for comment.
As the county was working toward a sale of Vermilion Manor to FNR over the last few months, employees at Vermilion Manor as well as some county board members expressed concerns that jobs there would be cut by the new owners, but county administration officials assured employees and the board that the owners had indicated that would not happen.
"We only repeated what we were told," Weinard said.
Weinard said he expects his personal integrity, as well as the county's, will "take a hit" over this, because county officials have been "parroting" what they were being told by the new owners — that over time, some positions at the nursing home could be eliminated through attrition, but not a significant number immediately.
"This to me is major," Weinard said of the number of positions eliminated.
Weinard said more than 100 employees were offered new contracts, he said, and the owners will be investing in the facility, which will go back on the tax rolls, and the county does have the $3.4 million check from the owners for the purchase price in the bank.
But, he said, he believes he and other county administration officials who have worked on this sale were misled, and if the ownership had recently decided to go this route, he wishes the owners would have called to let him know.
"The tactics were not appreciated," he said.
Weinard said county officials called the brokers who assisted the county in finding buyers for the nursing home, and they too were unaware and surprised by this move.
Weinard said he has not heard from the new owners, and the closing Thursday morning was attended only by himself, County Attorney Bill Donahue and representatives of the local title business. Weinard said the new owners did not attend the closing, and their end of the transaction was handled electronically.
The facility has already been renamed Garden View Manor, and a new sign with the name has been displayed at the facility on Catlin-Tilton Road.