Paid Letters to the Editor

We welcome letters to the Editor, a chance for members of the community to comment on issues of concern to them. All letters must be original, not duplications of letters addressed to public officials or written by others. The views and opinions expressed are those of the letter writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication, its publishers, Editor, or staff.

To the Editor:
The continued and uninterrupted operation of Pine Crest as a skilled nursing facility has been, and continues to be, the priority of your County Board. Previous efforts to change financial outcomes at the facility were not successful. Subsequently, an AD HOC Committee was formed to review Pine Crest’s history and determine how our goal of maintaining a skilled nursing facility in Merrill might be achieved.
The AD HOC Committee spent a year researching this issue, looking at successes, failures, and options. All meetings were open to the public and an extensive report of their findings was provided to tax payers. Meeting details and the report can be found on the Lincoln County website.
After careful review of the findings, the Board contacted a broker to determine if there was a market for a skilled nursing facility, as selling Pine Crest to a private party with industry expertise is one of our options.
Another option was offered, a referendum to raise taxes in order to keep the facility County owned. In my opinion, a failed referendum would be disastrous for Pine Crest residents and staff. Nonetheless, these two choices emerged, were publicly debated, and voted on. The decision was made to seek a private buyer.
A brief history follows. In 2017, the Board borrowed $10 million to build a rehabilitation center to capture new revenue. It didn’t work and we still owe over $8 million. Next, the County Board contracted the management of care to NCHC. That didn’t work either; last year tax payers had to reimburse NCHC $1.1 million to cover operating deficits. Three years ago, the County Board gave up 40 bed licenses, out of the 160 owned, stating in Committee we (meaning Pine Crest) will never be that full again.
I asked the County Board to address this very difficult issue, and they have worked hard over the last two years, examining options and developing a plan to keep a high-quality skilled nursing facility in Merrill while ensuring tax payers are also regarded during the process. They have represented the people of Lincoln County in a professional and respectful manner throughout.
This is an emotional issue for many in our community. I am not sure what option the Board will choose, but I do know that someone will have to pay for the continued operation of Pine Crest and doing nothing is not an option. Together, we will continue to seek solutions to this and all the obstacles we face. It is our privilege to serve you.

– Donald R. Friske
Chairman, Lincoln County Board of Supervisors

To the Editor:
Thank you to everyone attending the Townhall Meeting of the People for Pine Crest. A special thank you for all the presenters and volunteers. Moderator, Dorothy Sky, announced the ground rules to an audience of approximately 175.
Dora Gorski explained the purpose of the People for Pine Crest.
Tim Meehean, former Director of Pine Crest, provided the history and necessity of services for those in need.
Personal testimonials were provided by Dora Gorski, Marge Roggenbuck, and Arlene Meyer, resident of Pine Crest.
Dr. Barbara Crapster-Pregont described the differences she had observed while working for for-profit and county owned nursing homes during the past 20 years.
Tim Moe told of similar differences, noting better care is provided by county owned facilities.
Mike Southcombe explained the differences of care, costs and profit margins which affect patient care. Irene Mehlos and Renea Frederick spoke about the lack of reasons to sell Pine Crest because it is making money and served by dedicated caring staff in a five star facility.
Prior to this Townhall Meeting, the People for Pine Crest attended Board and Committee Meetings to ask for a Townhall Meeting and Resolutions among other suggestions but were denied, thus we proceeded on our own.
The next meeting of the People for Pine Crest is Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, 5:30 p.m. at St. Stephens meeting room.
County Board meeting 6 p.m. at the Service Center on Feb. 19.
We encourage the County Board to STOP THE SALE.
Respectfully submitted,

– Gene Bebel and Judy Woller
Merrill, Wis.

The cost for Paid Letters to the Editor is $40.00 per letter of up to 250 words, plus $10.00 per additional 50 words, and must be prepaid prior to printing.

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