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Letters: NCHC and Mount View proposals deserve more public input

in Opinion

Dear Editor:

When you think of the pressing problems in Marathon County, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Is it the opioid crisis, repair of roads or the quality of nursing home facilities?

The newly sworn in Marathon County board of supervisors have chosen the facilities at Mount View Care Center (MVCC) and North Central Health Care as the first major piece of business.    The proposal first mentioned in the media on May 9th Wausau Daily Herald article is to bond for $67 Million with a total cost of $80 Million including the interest.

The North Central Health Care facilities and operations have been studied by outsiders in part or whole in 2012, 2016 and again in 2017.  The recommendations of the 2016 study was to separate the MVCC  out of the tri-county agreement known as North Central Health Care because the MVCC is owned by only Marathon County.  Thus their recommendation is to directly report to the Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger.  Another recommendation was to gather more information before proposing a renovation and consider joining an existing nursing home commission.  While the Morningside recommendations were shelved in 2016, the drive to seek a directive to renovate did not go away.  Hence Clifton Larson Allen was hired in 2017.

In fact 30 counties in WI do not own their nursing homes, but contract for those services.   I have not seen a Request for Proposal to see how much the cost would be to contract for the residents that Marathon County is responsible.  This is an alternative that should be explored before committing $80 Million in borrowing for the next 20 years.

One must also ask why the issue has not received more public input?  First covered by the Daily Herald on May 9th, presented at the May 10th information meeting, and likely presented for a vote on May 15th.  One must ask why the short time table?  Why is there no public comment period after a proposal to commit $80 Million extensive project?  Less than a week is not enough time to understand the details and thoroughly understand for those outside the study group.

If you have questions or concerns you will need to phone or email your supervisor.  Again, is the county-owned nursing home the most pressing issue?  Since the previous county board of supervisors added a permanent wheel tax in 2017 to fund road repair, there are no extra funds to service the debt should the proposed efficiencies not materialize.

No one is questioning the need for quality services for those who the county is required to provide services, yet there are many options to provide such care. There are way too many questions and concerns for this to be voted on May 15th,  I ask that the vote be tabled until these questions are answered and a public comment meeting be allowed.

Gayle Marshall, Weston

Editor’s note: The views of our readers are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot and Review. To submit a letter, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to P.O. Box 532, Wausau, Wis., 54402-0532.

5 Comments

  1. Gayle – The issue to be voted upon tomorrow, May 15, by the County Board is for much more than an update of the nursing home. It is an complete master facility plan for the entire NCHC campus – the psychiatric hospital, the inpatient alcohol and drug rehab unit, the aquatic therapy pool, the community programs, and, yes, Mount View Care Center.

    Regarding the nursing home, the County appointed a five member committee, almost two years ago to look in detail at three options for MVCC. Options included 1) selling the facility and going out of the nursing home business (this option does not take away the county’s responsibility to care for protectively placed residents, currently $1.5 million); 2) continue the current situation – to have NCHC operate MVCC (including remodeling); and 3) contract with another organization to run MVCC for the County. The committee recommended option #2. If you have questions about their decision, I suggest you contact any of the supervisors who served on that committee: John Robinson, Katie Rosenburg, Tim Buttke, Alan Drabeck, or Jack Hoogendyck (who no longer serves as a supervisor). You may also want to contact County Board Chairman Kurt Gibbs who totally supports this recommendation (which is a complete turn around for him!)

    You missed a very important fact in your concern about who will pay for the $67 million + interest. Clifton, Larson Allen have projected that the entire amount will be paid for totally by North Central Health Care, NOT county taxpayers. It will be paid for by better reimbursements and operating efficiencies. If you have questions about the needs at NCHC and MVCC, I suggest you look at this video

    https://youtu.be/6ruOxyTL604.

    There are literally millions of dollars in upgrades needed in the almost.50 year old NCHC buildings. All of those upgrades are included in the $67 million plan. If the plan is not approved, those millions will be paid for by county taxpayers.

    Minutes, agendas and packets of all committes and the county board are all available on the county’s website. This is the best possible solution for Marathon County taxpayers. NOW is the time to act and pass the master facility plan. The residents of Marathon County deserve the best possible care in the best possible facilities at NCHC and MVCC.

  2. Have they double checked the math to show zero impact on our property tax rates? That appears to be what I heard a county supervisor say last night at a local meeting. I’d like to see that if true, that the payments will be made from increased revenues generated by the facility (guaranteed, I assume).

    Also a point of confusion, will the master plan affect the pool design in some way?

    With all the press surrounding the pool discussion, this item seems to have slipped under the radar. If they aren’t over-communicating, they are under-communicating. Let’s make sure the citizens have an opportunity to weigh in on this.

  3. I have posted over and over for years that if the city would simply communicate more to the public about the strategic direction it is going, then it would be able to justify some of the tactical decisions it is making. — Dino Corvino column

    I think the same applies to the County Board. As the Board weighs the critical issues, it appears to include non-critical needs in with the critical. Does this need trump the need for a jail? I don’t know since the study committee only looked at NCHC. Who is looking at the big picture?

  4. After much debate, the $67 million North Central Health Care Master Facility Plan was approved by the Marathon County Board of Supervisors tonight, May 15th, by a vote of 32-4. This plan was not rushed or hidden. For those who complain about lack of transparency or communication, I suggest they do their homework, attend committee meetings (which are all posted on the County’s website), examine the minutes and learn the rationale for the recommendations. Nothing was done in secret!

    Bottom line: Marathon County will receive a $67 million upgrade to the properties it owns at no increase in taxes to Marathon County taxpayers. Why would anyone turn down a deal like that?

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