Butler County to enter negotiations for sale of its nursing home

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 10:45 a.m.

Butler County may consider hiring a financial consultant to guide the officials in spending proceeds from the sale of Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, one county commissioner said.

“We don't want to blow this money away,” Commission Chairman Bill McCarrier said. “We want it to be here for a long time, for use by future people.”

McCarrier and Commissioner Dale Pinkerton voted as a 2-1 majority Wednesday to have McCarrier negotiate a sale with Investment 360, a healthcare investment group based in Lakewood, N.J., that owns several facilities in the Northeast. Commissioner James Eckstein, who has been against selling the county nursing home, voted against the negotiations.

How much money the county could receive from the sale isn't known just yet. McCarrier would not say how much Investment 360 offered. The county set a minimum asking price of $13.5 million. Eight parties submitted bids, McCarrier said, and all offers were “considerably higher” than the minimum price. He added that all offers were within a range of a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

The county budgeted $20 million to run Sunnyview in 2014. Revenue from the 220-bed facility covers most of the costs, though the county has had to cover shortfalls of nearly $1 million annually for the last couple of years.

The county is expecting it would save money by no longer operating the nursing home, McCarrier said. It would no longer have to pay $200,000 to insure Sunnyview or make payments to the workers' compensation fund. The county had budgeted $287,000 in workers' compensation costs for 2014. A sale would drop about 200 employees from the payroll, so the county also would make smaller annual payments to the pension fund. It budgeted $1.8 million in pension costs for 2014.

McCarrier said initial estimates to cover pension costs of Sunnyview employees who would leave the county payroll were put at $4 million, but he said the number likely will be “far less than that,” though he did not have an amount.

While suggestions have included using proceeds from the sale to pay down the county debt, McCarrier said that with only 4 percent interest on debt, the money might be better used elsewhere.

“You don't necessarily want to pay off debt early,” McCarrier said. “You're paying with cheaper dollars.”

McCarrier said it could take up to 60 days to finish an agreement with Investment 360.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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