Bidders for the Sussex County Homestead sit in one of the Bidders areas. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Employees and volunteers for the Sussex County Homestead sit and listen for the results. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The crowd listens to the auction specifics prior to the beginning of the bidding. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sussex County Freeholders Richard Zeoli, and Richard Vohden sit among the crowd. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson listens to the auction terms. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
David A. Weinstein, Counsel for Sussex County, reviews the deposits received by the bidders. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Signs asking to "Save The Homestead" in a window along Spring Street in Newton. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Bidders for Sentosa Care LLC, and Altitude Health Services, Inc. hold a discussion among themselves before the first winning bid was announced. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Homestead to the Highest Bidder
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 • 2:18pm
NEWTON, NJ – The crowd overflowed today from the Freeholder Meeting Room within the Sussex County Administrative Center, into the adjacent hallway, to learn who could be the next owner of the county-run Sussex County Homestead nursing home.
The crowd ranged from bidders to freeholders to Homestead employees and volunteers, to curious members of the public
The Homestead’s fate has been at the center of controversy and study, documented on the Sussex County website with figures dating as far back as 2006 (click here to view the Homestead Evaluation Documents).
The Sussex County Homestead is a 55,000 square foot facility located at 129 Morris Turnpike in Frankford Township.
According to a financial comparison by the county, the Sussex County Homestead garnered revenue of approximately $10.4 million as of Dec. 31 of last year, with a projected $8.3 million as of April 30, 2012, reflecting a change of $2.0 million, or 24.8 percent drop in revenue.
The figures also show an increase in costs for the facility of about $10.5 million at the end of 2011, and a projected estimated increase of about $10.6 million in April 30, or a 1.3 percent increase in costs.
The figures reflect a deficit of around $76,000 at the end of 2011, with projections of a $2.3 million deficit at the end of April 2012, indicating a 96.5 percent change.
“This almost brings to conclusion a long process, we’re happy there were three bidders, and in the amount of the bid range we were looking for,” said Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson. "This has been a tough several months."
The bidding commenced at $6 million, with two bid classifications in place for the auction.
The first bid classification, known as “Option A” was set with restrictions on the property sale. The contingencies govern that the new owner must operate as a nursing home for 15 years, provide all current employees the opportunity to interview for employment, to allocate 1,270 square feet for medication and material storage and 3,689 square feet for office space, to prohibit the transfer or release of residents without their consent, to provide 65 percent of the beds for Sussex County residents for a minimum of 10 years, to assign 65 percent of the beds to government subsidized residents for a minimum of 10 years, to reserve easements per the agreement of the sale, to purchase the property in “as is” and “where is” condition, to pay prorated real estate taxes, to conduct due diligence prior to bidding, and to pay for permits and operations cost.
Other sale contingencies for the restricted bids included the knowledge that the sale would not be conditioned on the successful bidder, and could be rejected by the county for any reason.
The first bidding activity took place shortly after 11:30am, with the deposits in the amount of $100,000 reviewed prior to the auction.
The bidding began in the first category at $6 million, climbing in increments of $6.25, $6.3, $6.5, $6.8, $7.0, $7.2, and $7.3 million, before the bidders were allowed to break for a few moments to make phone calls, and continue.
After returning from the hallway, the bids rose to $7.4 million, then $7.5, $7.525, $7.674, $7.7, and then $7.8 million, before another break was given for phone calls.
“Now there are no bidders,” a member of the Homestead camp quipped, as the bidding area temporarily emptied out.
The final bid was made minutes later, with the winning bid of $7.850 million placed by representatives of Sentosa Care, LLC, located at 20 Franklin Place in Woodmere, NY.
Sentosa Care, LLC, according to their website, runs other facilities in the Long Island and New York City Areas including: White Plains Center for Nursing Care, Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, Bayview Nursing and Rehabilitation Care Center, Nassau Extended Care Center, New Surfside Nursing Home, The Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, West Lawrence Care Center LLC, Brookhaven Rehabilitation and Care Center, Park Avenue Extended Care Center, Throgs Neck Extended Care Facility, Eastchester Rehabilitation, Golden Gate Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, The Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at Spring Creek, Townhouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, Grace Plaza Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and Park Avenue Extended Care.
For the second class of bid known as “Option B”, which also began at $6 million, there were no restrictions on the property.
Altitude Health Services, Inc., of Evanston, IL came out as the winning bidder at $6.5 million shortly after noon today.
According to an article by the Observer of Dunkirk NY, (click here for the story) Altitude Health Services operates four other nursing care facilities in the country, and ended up the winning bidder on a sale of the Chautauqua County Home in Western New York State this month, fronting a $150,000 check for the sale, and willing to pay $16.5 million at the closing date of that sale.
A third bidder, Joel Leifer, an individual, was also present at the sale. Leifer’s deposit check was returned at the end of the auction.
“It’s a shame we got to this point,” said Joan Current, a volunteer with the Homestead’s Auxiliary, who has been a vocal opponent of the sale, having made the rounds to all municipalities asking the local governments to oppose the sale of the nursing home.
“They’re giving up a good facility,” Current continued. “They’re taking away jobs from county employees. I’m very disappointed in the county, and the freeholders. It doesn’t make a difference what you do.”
Susan Williams and Jim Tighe, Democratic Candidates for Sussex County Freeholder, were both present in the crowd.
“I am still very concerned,” Williams said. “While I’m pleased the bidders agreed to purchase under auction A to protect the residents and the employees, there’s nothing to say that these provisions will be adhered to.”
All of the bidders declined to comment.
The decision as to who the final winning bidder will be will go to vote before the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Thursday, July 26 at 5pm.