Lincoln County Board votes 15-6 in favor of selling Pine Crest

Pine Crest Nursing Home, Merrill. Tina L. Scott photo.

BY TINA L. SCOTT
EDITOR

After a nearly four-hour Lincoln County Board meeting Monday evening, Feb. 19, 2024, prior to which members of the People for Pine Crest held a press conference to share their objections to the proposed sale of Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill and urging County Supervisors to postpone the vote, 15 of the County Board’s 21 Supervisors who were present at the meeting voted in favor of a resolution approving the proposed sale.
The resolution instructed Board Chairman Don Friske and County Clerk Chris Marlowe to sign the Asset Purchase Agreement on behalf of the County, and they did so immediately following the meeting. Pine Crest Nursing Home will be sold to Merrill Campus, LLC and Senior Management, Inc., with the closing set for June 30 and the new ownership to take effect July 1, 2024.
Prior to the item being considered on the Board’s Agenda, however, the Board heard from 22 individuals who spoke during the public comment period. The vast majority asked the Board to stop the sale or postpone the vote, questioning various aspects of the proposed Asset Purchase Agreement in addition to their general objections to the nursing home becoming privately owned rather than County-owned. Two of the speakers, however, spoke in support of the sale and cited the financial necessity of the sale.
Also prior to the vote, Supervisor Elizabeth McCrank introduced a motion to amend the proposed resolution on the Agenda, suggesting the addition of language that would provide that if the purchaser ceased to operate Pine Crest as a skilled nursing home, or declared an intent to cease to operate it as such, within five years, the property and improvements would revert back to the County. Supervisor Greta Rusch seconded the motion, but after discussion, the motion to amend failed on a voice vote. Some said that type of language would effectively kill any prospects for a sale.
Lincoln County Corporation Counsel Karry Johnson outlined the proposed Asset Purchase Agreement before Supervisor Julie DePasse made a motion to approve the resolution calling for the Approval of the Asset Purchase Agreement between Lincoln County and purchaser Merrill Campus, LLC and Senior Management, Inc. Supervisor Gene Simon seconded the motion. After some discussion during which numerous Supervisors shared their confidence in the proposed buyers and the process that had vetted this buyer as one who would continue to operate Pine Crest Nursing Home as a skilled nursing facility and ensure its viability going forward, along with maintaining the current staff and level of Medicaid patients, it came time for the vote. Supervisor Julie Allen was absent from the meeting due to traveling. The other 21 County Board Supervisors voted, and the resolution passed on a roll call vote, with Supervisors McCrank, Rusch, Nubs Ashbeck, Bill Bialecki, Lori Anderson-Malm, and Brian Hafeman voting against it and the other 15 Supervisors voting in favor.
Due to the length of the meeting and the many people who spoke, both during the public comment period and during discussion portions of the meeting, making points on all sides of the issue, as well as the late hour at which the meeting ended and deadlines for this publication going to press, this article is a very high-level summary of Monday night’s meeting.
Additional information will be included in an article in next week’s newspaper, along with follow-up and additional information that was not readily available at the time this publication went to press.

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