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Controller questions Sunnyview sale details

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

The county commissioners might have made more money from the sale of the Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had they sold the nursing home's unpaid accounts to a bill collector instead of including them with the sale of the building, Butler County's controller said.

The accounts receivable — the amount billed for patient care but not yet paid — has been estimated as of Thursday at more than $2.2 million.

Controller Ben Holland said the county commissioners should have sought separate bidders for the accounts.

“You never know for sure what you could have gotten,” Holland said.

“These are assets that belong to the taxpayers. If you put it out there, I think you would ultimately find what it's really worth, and you owe that to the taxpayer.”

Commissioners Bill McCarrier and A. Dale Pinkerton disagreed with Holland's take, saying the county needed to sell the accounts as simply as possible and included them as part of the sale package.

The sale closed Thursday.

“It's just better to have them sold and walk away from them and take the money,” said McCarrier, the commission chairman.

“It's just cleaner this way.”

Ownership of the 220-bed nursing home passed Saturday from the county to Investment 360 of Lakewood, N.J.

Investment 360 agreed to pay $18.5 million for the building and contents.

Commissioners and the buyers negotiated terms in which Investment 360 also would pay 75 percent of the value of unpaid accounts no older than 150 days, which would bring Butler County about $1.5 million.

But that could fluctuate based on how much was outstanding when new owners took control.

Holland and McCarrier said the county worked since January to collect as much of the accounts receivable as possible before the closing, so that the county would keep 100 percent of that money.

In March, though, the county wrote off about $300,000 in unpaid patient bills, saying they were uncollectable.

Investment 360 initially offered 70 percent of the value of the unpaid accounts, McCarrier said, adding that he has bought and sold several businesses in the private sector, and no companies buy accounts receivable for the full price.

He said he bought accounts receivable for one acquisition for 50 percent of their value.

Had the county not sold the accounts, Investment 360 would have kept 10 percent of anything the county collected after the sale, he said.

Investment 360 has said it does not plan layoffs.

The company agreed to a three-year contract on April 17 with about 230 workers.

The wage agreement imposes a pay freeze in 2015, but 2.5 percent pay hikes in the second and third years of the contract, along with higher health insurance payments by workers.

The county also did not want to keep one of its employees at Sunnyview after the sale to help collect debts, he said.

“We didn't want to have someone looking over their shoulder up there,” McCarrier said.

Holland said that without the county bidding out the accounts, Investment 360 had no competition.

“Just because it's legal, is it the right thing to do?” Holland said.

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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