County board puts off lease vote for nursing home, OKs plan to cover payroll

County board puts off lease vote for nursing home, OKs plan to cover payroll

URBANA — A vote on a proposed agreement to lease space at the Champaign County Nursing Home to Rosecrance Health Systems was postponed Tuesday over questions raised by the Illinois Department of Public Health, while county board members members gave tentative approval to a plan to use the county's general fund as a line of credit to cover nursing home payroll.

Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel said he hoped to bring the lease agreement back before the county board on March 27. As proposed, the county would lease to Rosecrance an unused wing at the nursing home for use as an inpatient drug therapy facility for about 24 patients at a time.

But nursing home officials received a letter from the Public Health Department late Monday afternoon raising questions about the agreement. County administrators didn't learn of the questions until Tuesday morning.

The letter, according to Champaign County Assistant State's Attorney Barb Mann, said the county needed to meet another step in the process to get IDPH certification.

"They weren't going to be able to iron it out today and so it just didn't seem appropriate to be bringing it to you until we had a clearer understanding from IDPH whether or not there were more things to do before it would be approved," Mann said.

The measure to use the general fund to cover nursing home payroll was approved 12-6 at the board's regular committee-of-the-whole meeting, with all "no" votes coming from Republican members Jim McGuire, Jon Rector, Jack Anderson, Brad Clemmons, John Clifford and Stan Harper.

Weibel called the measure "a Band-Aid approach" that will make it easier for the county to cover payrolls, which average about $240,000 every two weeks.

Under the plan, county Treasurer John Farney and county Administrator Deb Busey will pay bills submitted by vendors only during payroll weeks. After it's been determined that there is adequate revenue to cover payroll, accounts payable will be prioritized with any remaining funds.

If there's still a shortfall, the county general fund will be used on an emergency basis to cover payroll. But any revenue coming into the nursing home will have to go immediately to paying back the general fund.

"At least most of the time we won't have to sit around here, sweating to see if we make payroll," Weibel said.

Farney acknowledged, though, that the nursing home's vendors would bear the brunt of the arrangement.

"I do believe that this is the right way to do this," he said. "I see the biggest risk to this being that if got into a cycle where we could only pay payroll, you are running the risk of putting off vendors for a long time until the county board can take other affirmative action to change the way we're doing this."

The county is "running the risk of putting this on the backs of your vendors, but you need to do something so that you're not having emergency meetings."

Meanwhile, an updated county report shows that the nursing home owes vendors and the county government nearly $4 million.

It owes about 100 private companies more than $2 million. Seven vendors are owed more than $100,000, including HealthPro, a therapy provider that the nursing home is more than $345,000 in arrears.

Also owed nearly $100,000 is SAK Management, which took over management of the nursing home last July.

The nursing home also owes the county government $1.89 million.

The county is considering an $11 million offer from two companies to buy the nursing home but no decision is expected until at least May.