BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
DANVILLE — Residents have the power next month to determine the next move for county leaders considering the future of Vermilion Manor Nursing Home.
A referendum on the Nov. 6 general election ballot poses the question to voters: “Shall Vermilion County, Illinois be authorized to sell the county nursing home known as Vermilion Manor Nursing Home?”
County board members voted earlier this year to put the question on the November ballot. Chairman Jim McMahon said, if the referendum passes, the county has several options — not just selling the county-owned facility.
“Would we actively check our options? Yes,” he said. “Because we have to know what are options are based on the authority of the voters. We need to know what options we have.”
“It doesn’t mean we’ll seek to sell immediately,” he said. “There are people interested in both ways: buying outright or a partnership scenario.”
At last count, the county has been in conversation — not negotiations — with not less than four firms that have shown interest in the nursing home. McMahon said there are two firms who want to come in and remodel and take over and two others that could be interested in running it in a partnership with the county.
The referendum was considered and eventually placed on the ballot after the county faced delinquent Medicare payments from the state that topped, at one point, $2 million. Just less than 50 percent of Vermilion Manor’s income comes from state payments.
The proposed FY 2012-13 budget for the county predicts for a $1 million loss at Vermilion Manor in the upcoming year. The final budget has not been passed by the county board.
If the Vermilion Manor referendum passes, McMahon said the option to be pursued will be decided, in part, by the representatives who are elected to the county board. Each of the 27 seats in the board’s nine districts is on the ballot, with four of the races contested.
The nursing home was built in 1972, with an addition built in 1978.
--In the other question on next month’s ballot, local voters will be asked: “Shall Vermilion County, Illinois have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such a program?”
The Illinois General Assembly approved legislation in 2010 that allowed local governments to aggregate the electric power purchasing of residents. More than 200 communities passed aggregation referendums in the March primary election.
In the plan, the company buys electricity for large groups, a practice known as aggregation programs, and so receives a lower rate. It passes that lower rate along to the groups it represents. Integrys LLC was approved by the county board in September as the program provider if the resolution passes.
The program, if approved by voters in November, would only be available to Ameren customers. Co-op customers cannot take part.
In addition, the program would be considered an opt-out plan — meaning residents eligible for the plan could opt out of the program and not participate, leaving them open to work individually with another electrical aggregation provider.
According to a report from Integrys, 1,031 customers have signed up so far — 995 residents and 36 businesses. Overall, the 1,031 customers will save as much as $175,593 over the course of the contract, which ends in December.
The rates from Ameren Illinois stand at 6.13 to 6.18 cents per kilowatt hour. Through the electrical aggregation program, the Integrys rate for Vermilion County residents is 4.495 cents per kilowatt hour, or a savings of 26.7 to 27.3 percent.
The electrical aggregation program is intended to assist the county in dealing with expected costs it will be facing next year, specifically renovation of the county courthouse, which is expected to cost between $5-7 million for new elevators and repairs to a courthouse roof that has been leaking for 20 years.
The electrical aggregation program will offset bond issue payments.
McMahon said he expects the courthouse work to be stalled if the referendum does not pass.
Two Vermilion County Circuit Court judges — Craig DeArmond and Nancy Fahey — and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garmon of Danville will be on the Nov. 6 ballot to be retained in their current positions.
Also, Republican Carol Pope is the only candidate to fill a Fourth Appellate Court vacancy.