Vermilion County to close on nursing home transfer

Vermilion County to close on nursing home transfer

TILTON — A long chapter in the history of Vermilion County government will come to a close Thursday when the county transfers ownership of the Vermilion Manor Nursing Home to the new owner, FNR Healthcare Group.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the closing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. There will still be some loose ends to tie up, like account receivables and payables, but the balance of everything will be accomplished, said Weinard, who will be at the closing to sign final documents as county board chairman.

The history of the nursing home on Catlin-Tilton Road west of Tilton stretches back to 1866 when the county poor farm, as it was known then, housed people with mental health issues as well as indigent county residents and others, according to Weinard. He said it literally was a farm, and the operation of the farm supported the residents. Over the years, it evolved into today's modern nursing home facility that has been struggling financially for years.

Eight years ago in a referendum, county voters approved increasing the property tax levy to generate more revenue for the nursing home, whose budget had to be subsidized by the county. Weinard was one of a minority number of county board members who objected to asking voters for more money and supported looking for alternatives to county ownership.

Weinard, who has been county board chairman less than a year, said he had no idea eight years ago that he would be the one at the table today signing documents turning over the nursing home to FNR, a private owner headquartered in Skokie that partners with Premier Healthcare Management to manage FNR's nursing home facilities.

"There are going to be some rough patches. Probably not everyone will be retained," Weinard said of nursing home employees. He added that there will be job description changes, and employees will be offered the opportunity to accept, or not accept, some revamped positions. He said he had no numbers or details on those changes.

"I will feel bad if some people are not retained," he said. "On the other hand, there will be a lot of employees who will be retained. If it hadn't been sold and privatized, I can guarantee in a couple years, it wouldn't be there at all."

In the last two years, the nursing home struggled with cash flow, mostly due to slow Medicaid reimbursements, and at one point, was close to not making payroll. After that, county officials began seriously considering asking voters for the authority to sell the nursing home, and voters gave the county that authority in a referendum last November. The county then a hired a firm to help market the nursing home, and five bids were submitted on the facility. County administrators recommended FNR, and the county board approved FNR's bid of $3.4 million. According to county officials, FNR also plans to put $2 million of capital improvements into the facility.

Barak Baever, an owner of Premier, is scheduled to be at the nursing home Thursday. And Matt Cohen, director of business development with Premier, said the company is very excited to be in the Danville and Vermilion County area and looks forward to working with the staff and community to provide excellent, quality care.

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