Freeholder Director Phil Crabb discusses the Homestead decision. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The Sussex County Freeholders prior to the announcement. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Susan Zellman discusses items she has worked on. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Harry Dunleavy Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Jeff Daly Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Kathy Brennan Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Ann Smolowitz Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Susan Williams Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
John Eskilson holds up an award the county received for excellence in cloud computing. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders Choose New Homestead Owner
Thursday, July 26, 2012 • 11:43pm
NEWTON, NJ – The Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted tonight to choose who will be the new owner of the Sussex County Homestead nursing home this early this evening.
On July 18 (click here to read story), there were two parties in line to take over ownership of the nursing home after winning two separate auctions.
One was Sentosa Care, LLC, which won the “Option A” auction (restrictions on the property sale) for $7,850,000, and the other was Altitude Health Care Services, the winner of “Option B” (no restrictions on the sale), for $6,500,000.
Tonight, the freeholders announce Sentosa Care, LLC was their choice.
“It’s been a long and winding road and I’d like to thank this board for being resolute,” said Freeholder Director Phillip Crabb.
Crabb said the ones who are most vulnerable to change are the residents.
He noted Jake Lighten, the Division Director, would remain on board.
“This would provide for a continuity, and all current staff will be interviewed for their own jobs,” Crabb added.
During the vote, all freeholders voted “yes”, with the exception of Susan Zellman.
The reaction from members of the public who spoke during the second public session, were not in favor of the decision, and some showed great displeasure.
“None of you cared a damn about the old people being thrown out on the street,” remarked an irritated Harry Dunleavy.
“That’s a broad brush, Harry,” Crabb said.
“Be proud of what you’ve done,” Dunleavy said walking away from the podium.
Jeff Daly said Sentosa Care, LLC is known for substandard care facilities, with many rated below average.
“It [the decision] did not look out for their [patients’] best interest,” Daly said.
Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson said the group did their due diligence, and three of the facilities were rated average, three much above, and three above, with 10 facilities below.
Eskilson said the Homestead, at one time, was rated below average itself.
“He [Lighten] turned that facility around for us, it’s very good he remained there,” Eskilson said.
The Homestead now has an average rating, said Eskilson.
In response to the possibility of patients ending up on the street, Eskilson said, “That cannot happen. There are laws on the book that prevent that.”
The freeholders reminded Dunleavy that James McCracken, a Sussex County Resident, was appointed as Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly by Governor Chris Christie, and, could be contacted if any issues developed.
“Things happen at every nursing home, what we looked for were patterns,” Eskilson continued. “It wasn’t an organization or cultural problem.”
Eskilson said what issues Sentosa Care, LLC was cited with previously, have now been corrected.
“There are 1,052 nursing home beds in Sussex County, and two-thirds of the beds are one star nursing homes,” said Freeholder Richard Vohden. “Those are really the ones who we need to be concerned about and direct our attention to help those people.”
Kathy Brennan, another resident, worried about the possibility that workers from the Philippines would be hired, as they were in other Sentosa facilities, and local residents would be out of jobs.
“A job interview is an interview, not a job,” said Brennan.
Eskilson said the cases with the workers from the Philippines, who ended up walking off the job, were charged for putting patients into harm’s way.
Ann Smolowitz was another member of the public who spoke. She said that her mother had been cared for at a Sentosa facility, and, she was not pleased with the care. She eventually brought her mother home for private care.
Susan Williams, a Democratic Freeholder Candidate said there could be issues with privatizing the Homestead, as there are with the two-thirds of the nursing home beds, which are also privately owned, within the county.
In other business:
· Zellman said she attended a Tri-State Actors Theater reception, and encouraged everyone to see a performance. She also attended a transportation meeting about the construction on the no build option on Newton-Sparta Road. Zellman said there is a possibility now the project could be done, but in phases.
· Vohden said he attended an event ad the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, which discussed options dealing with slow growth. The professors who spoke said after the fourth year of economic recovery in the nation, it would take three years to return to pre-recession levels. Additionally, “McMansions” are considered an historical artifact, with many in the 20 to 30 age groups renting their residences, and moving to the cities. Vohden said this shift would impact property taxes. Vohden also attended a Sussex County Board of Agriculture meeting, and said Tranquility Farm had 60 acres of pumpkins damaged by the recent hailstorm. Vohden congratulated Zellman for receiving the Elected Official of the Year Award from TransOptions.
· Eskilson brought an award the county received as the top county in the nation in the 150,000 to 249,999 population group for their cloud computing from the Center for Digital Government.