Newberry Slows Sale of County Retirement Home

October 22, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveNewberry County’s bid to sell one of the state’s few remaining county-owned nursing homes has been delayed.

County Council was scheduled to take the third and final reading on the sale of Springfield Place & Jessie Frank Hawkins on Oct. 20, but because of issues with language in the sale contract the vote has been moved to Nov. 3.

Newberry County Council voted last month to pass the second of three readings to sell the Springfield Place & Jessie Frank Hawkins site, the county’s only licensed continuing care facility, to Madison Healthcare Management for a price believed to be a little more than $11 million.

“All of the basic pieces are in place, but the contract wording is not in final form,” County Administrator Wayne Adams told the Newberry Observer. “Some of the language we’re working through comes from suggestions made at the public hearing on October 6.”

Newberry is one of the few counties in South Carolina to own a nursing home. Of the nearly 200 residential care facilities in the state, just four others are owned by counties.

In July, Barnwell County sold its facility, the Barnwell County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, to UHS-Pruitt Corp. of Norcross, Ga., for $3.4 million.

As a result, Barnwell County is no longer involved in the daily management of the home and not contributing tax dollars to keep the facility afloat.

As part of the deal, Madison Healthcare subsidiary Prestige, which would operate Springfield Place & Jessie Frank Hawkins, would get economic development incentives that would allow the new company to forego paying taxes on the facility for the first three years, according to the Observer.

The company would then pay $157,000 in taxes the next six years and full property tax thereafter, the paper added.

Adams has said a potential buyer must have a responsible nursing home management record and be willing to pay a price sufficient to cover the $10 million-plus debt associated with the facilities.

County leaders recognize the two facilities are in need of significant repairs and improvements and officials have stated that they do not have financing necessary to renovate them.

Earlier this month, a number of individuals spoke out against the sale during a public hearing, including some who voiced concerns over increased fees after the sale and that the sale was essentially completed before the public was aware of the details.

However, Prestige chief executive Bob Norcross said his company will be making improvements and plans on hiring more caregivers, in addition to offering every employee a job, according to the Observer.

The paper added that one issue that drew displeasure from those on hand was the fact that details of the contract between the county and the purchaser would not be known until the final reading of the ordinance to sell the facility.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@thenerve.org.