Kiski Township personal care home closed, residents relocated

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 7:13 a.m.

Alleged deficiencies found Thursday in a Kiski Township personal care home inspection caused state officials to attempt to remove all 19 residents Thursday night in an “emergency relocation.”

Wofford's Cherry Lane Manor, at 627 Sawyer Lane, was inspected by state Department of Public Welfare and Kiski Township zoning and fire officials.

‘We don't like doing this because it's a vulnerable population,” Welfare Department spokeswoman Donna Morgan said of the relocations.

Morgan said the facility has a provisional license through May 6, the second one that the personal care home has been operating under. Provisional licenses are given to facilities that have shown problems that the Welfare Department expects to have fixed to avoid sanctions.

But Thursday's inspection revealed “life-threatening fire safety issues, electrical hazards and substandard plumbing,” Morgan said in a phone call from Harrisburg.

“Inspectors said this (place) does not look safe,” she said.

Morgan said five Welfare Department employees were at the personal care home to interview each resident in preparation of moving them to other facilities.

“They will evaluate each client and their special needs” and find them spaces in other personal care or nursing homes, if that need is shown during the evaluation.

Morgan said the Welfare Department personnel were working with the Armstrong County Area Agency on Aging and planned on calling for assistance from police, fire and emergency crews.

“It's an emergency, 19 people need a home tonight,” said Sherry Stockdale from the Back to Basics personal care home in Dayton, Armstrong County.

“You see if you can get someone in,” she said.

Stockdale said that she was called Thursday to come assess residents at Wofford's Cherry Lane Manor to see if any of them could be transferred to her personal care home in Dayton.

Because her available vacancy involved a potential resident using a stairway, she said she wasn't able to take any of Cherry Lane Manor's residents.

According to Stockdale, there were between six to eight Welfare Department representatives in the personal care home Thursday calling personal care homes throughout the region trying to find the residents homes.

Local ambulance crews were standing by to help, said Kiski Township fire Chief and township Supervisor Rich Frame.

He said the facility employs at least a half-dozen people.

Supervisors Chairman Jack Wilmot said he met with a Welfare Department official Thursday afternoon.

“They got (electrical) cords running everywhere up there,” Wilmot said. “It's a firetrap waiting to happen. It's not safe for the public.”

In addition to electrical problems, Wilmot said, “there was raw sewage in the basement.”

Frame said all of the residents were evacuated about a week ago for a short time for what he said was “a suspicious smell.” They were placed in a specialized bus while the building was checked out and returned to the home.

“Our goal is to get them into a personal care home by tonight,” DPW's Morgan said at 5 p.m.

The DPW wants to relocate all of the residents “within the region,” Morgan said.Morgan said that in November 2011 Cherry Lane Manor was first given a list of things to correct. DPW alleges it told Manor managers about problems twice in 2012.

“They were on their second provisional license,” Morgan said, adding that the paperwork described “multiple and repeat violations.”

Specific Welfare Department or township zoning violations weren't available Thursday.

Owner's side

“This is very difficult,” said Karen Wofford, listed as one of the owners on Department of Public Welfare documents. “This is a shock to all of us.”

Wofford said that she didn't know the details of deficiencies cited by the Welfare Department.

Wofford said that she and her husband, Randy, hired an independent inspector last summer to look at the home to ready it for sale as they prepare for retirement. “Everything was fine,” she said.

Wofford, 59, of the Kittanning area, said that she and her husband sold the Cherry Lane Manor building and business in January on a rent-to-own basis.

She declined to name the new owner but did say that she is a young, local woman who had been an employee there. That person could not immediately be identified.

Wofford said that her husband continues to work at the home as administrator. According to public records, Randy Wofford was listed as “Owner/administrator” in a violation report letter that the Welfare Department sent to the Woffords dated Jan. 31.

Efforts to reach her husband were unsuccessful Thursday.

A man at the personal care home Thursday evening said he was a former owner but refused to give his name.

Karen Wofford said some residents have lived there for 15 to 20 years.

According to Wofford, Cherry Lane Manor has been operating for 31 years, and without any major incidents.

Chuck Biedka and Mary Ann Thomas are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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