BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
---- — DANVILLE — The papers were signed Thursday as Vermilion County officially turned over its long-time nursing home facility to a private owner.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard confirmed the transfer took place around mid-day Thursday at Vermilion Title, ending a year of decision making and several years of debate among county board members and residents alike.
FNR Premier is the new owner of Vermilion Manor Nursing Home after out-bidding another company for the facility, located along Catlin-Tilton Road.
The business transaction came with a unfortunate side, however, as FNR Premier did not retain 39 employees at the facility. A little more than 110 people are employed there.
Speaking Thursday afternoon, Weinard termed the company’s decision “a shock to us.”
“We were under the impression that everyone or virtually everyone would be offered the opportunity to go to work,” he said, adding he was disappointed by the news.
Weinard said he spoke to other officials involved in negotiations and all confirmed his expectations that, at most, up to 10 or 15 employees to be released.
“But not 39; no one was expecting that,” he said.
Vermilion County paid employees through Thursday, entitling them to health insurance through the month of August. That includes the 39 people who were let go.
Weinard said the sale is still a “cup half full” situation, noting that despite the job loss the sale allows the nursing home to stay open, continue to house patients and receive needed improvements.
Although the papers have been signed, both sides continue to work out one issue regarding the agreement, specifically the backlog of Medicaid payments that are still owed to the nursing home.
Weinard said the county and FNR Premier are working to determine whether Vermilion County is going to the keep the payments as they come in or if FNR is going to buy from the county in one lump sum.
“Frankly, if they offer to give me 90 percent at what the accounts receivables are expected from the state of Illinois, I would recommend that we take that,” he said Wednesday. “If they’re going to offer me 20 percent, I’d say let’s take our chances.”
At this point, the county is still owed around $1 million in reimbursement payments — which are federal dollars funneled through the state. Weinard said the county has payments that are as much as 270 days late.
Despite the late nature of the payments, Weinard pointed out the county has never not received a payment.
“We just don’t know whether it’s going to be three months, six months, 10 months or 2 years,” he said. “But we’ll get it.”
The Vermilion County Board met in a special meeting in late June to discuss and vote on selling the county-owned nursing home to FNR Healthcare Group, a partner of Premier HealthCare Management.
Such a decision required a two-thirds majority, or 18 votes, to approve the decision. The board voted 23-1, with three members absent. John Criswell of District 5 was the sole dissenting vote.
Overall, the deal to purchase the nursing home is $5.5 million. Of that, $3.5 million of the payment is the price for the nursing home, while the remaining $2 million is money FNR Healthcare Group already has indicated it will put toward capital improvements to the nursing home, which has been open since the early 1970s.
FNR Healthcare Group has five facilities in Illinois, including Champaign County.
Sixty percent of voters approved the November referendum to give the county authority to sell the nursing home.
FNR Healthcare Group was in the running with IMG, the IDE Management group headquartered in Greenfield, Ind., as the two finalists out of a group of five that submitted bids for the nursing home.
According to information released by the county, FNR Healthcare Group offered a higher price as well as outlining a richer investment program to improve the nursing home.