Lincoln County Board works to save Pine Crest
BY TINA L. SCOTT
Members of the Lincoln County Board said they are concerned the community is not understanding what they are trying to do with regard to recent conversations and actions surrounding Pine Crest Nursing Home.
First and foremost, “The County Board is trying to save this service to the community,” Lincoln County Supervisor Calvin Callahan said. “We know we want this service and we need this service here.”
“The needs are many, but our immediate concern is that we can keep the service in the community,” Lincoln County Supervisor Julie DePasse said.
“I want residents to feel secure that we’ve got their interests in mind, and I want staff to know that,” Lincoln County Supervisor and Chair of the Lincoln County Board Don Friske said. “Stay at Pine Crest, stay working at Pine Crest, stay there. We’re going to take care of it. You’re going to have a job moving forward. You’re going to have a good facility to work for. We’re gonna make sure that it continues to be a viable part of the community. That’s our goal.”
Pine Crest is not currently for sale
“Another misconception is people think that because of what we did at the County Board meeting last month, that it’s already slated for sale, and it’s not,” Callahan said.
Pine Crest is not currently for sale, Board Supervisors emphasized. It may be, in the future, if there is a qualified right buyer who is committed to purchasing Pine Crest and continuing to operate it as a nursing home here in the Merrill community, because the Board is committed to having this here, but they are trying to figure out the best way to move forward with that.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Pine Crest explored all kinds of options, and the Lincoln County Board reviewed those and talked about them in depth, and they determined the next best step is to explore working with a broker who can help the County determine if there is a market for Pine Crest and what that market looks like. Hence the likely next step of putting out a bid for brokers to decide who that right candidate or firm is to provide that information.
“We’re gathering all the information,” Friske said, “and this is one piece of the information we don’t have. For us to sit down as a 22-member Board and say, ‘Yep, we’re gonna sell Pine Crest.’ Well, what does that mean? We have no idea if there’s a market. We don’t know what anybody would offer … That is putting the decision way ahead of where we need to be.”
“What we need to do is find somebody who can say, is that a viable option for Lincoln County?” he said.
There are only a few very specialized brokers with actual experience dealing with nursing homes, he said.
A qualified broker will come in and look at Pine Crest, compare it with similar size facilities and if there are facilities that have sold, what have they sold for, similar in some ways to an appraisal, Friske said.
“I think Ken [Wickham] said it best … [the building’s] best use … is as a nursing home facility, because that’s what it’s built for and that’s how it’s going to be best utilized,” he said.
A qualified, experienced broker can tell us what they think and that will drive a decision if we need an outside appraisal. We’ll certainly look at getting one if it’s needed and if there is an appraiser out there that can provide a value for a nursing home, Friske said.
There are many steps that would take place before a sale would even be considered, Board Supervisors say. A broker would have to indicate there is an interest in the marketplace, provide input on what kind of offers to purchase might be expected, it would actually have to be made known that the County is entertaining offers, an interested buyer would need to submit an official written offer to purchase, and then the County Board would need to look at any such offer(s) to determine if it makes fiscal sense for the County to accept such an offer. That’s all going to take time.
Even if the County does get an offer to purchase Pine Crest at some point, we have a responsibility to our constituents to get what it’s worth, Lincoln County Board Supervisor Ken Wickham said.
“And there will be a lot of discussion points,” Friske said. “Those will all revolve around these three things: Is it the best thing for the residents, the staff, and for the taxpayers in Lincoln County? If it doesn’t check those boxes, I can tell you from my experience sitting at the head of the table and watching the other 21 members, it isn’t going to pass.”
“So moving forward, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
We’re trying to be as transparent as we possibly can be, he said. “We’ve instituted a lot of things to improve transparency in Lincoln County. … All our meetings are recorded. Everything’s online. You can watch them at any time. We’ve done town hall meetings; we’ve had multiple special meetings. Public comment has been very robust. We’ve allowed public comment online, at the meetings, and in an effort to ensure that people know … We’re not making predetermined decisions.”