Lehigh Valley

County council hires legal expert to sell Gracedale bed licenses

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Council has decided to spend up to $10,000 in hopes of making 90 times that amount in selling unused bed licenses at the Gracedale Nursing Home.

Council voted 7-0 Thursday night to hire the Harrisburg law firm Latsha Davis & McKenna to handle the sale of 37 bed licenses that is expected to bring in $925,000 to the county.

The firm will be paid up to $2,500 to review the county's Request for Proposals, which is still being developed, and $5,000 when the Bed Transfer Agreement is reached. The extra $2,500 was approved as a cushion.

Ross Marcus, the county's director of human services, said 10 inquiries have been received about the bed licenses.

County solicitor Daniel Spengler approved the contract with Latsha Davis & McKenna, saying the firm "has the experience, relationships, knowledge and specialized skills required for such a complex sale and [state] approval process]."

County council president John Cusick noted that Latsha Davis & McKenna successfully sold bed licenses for Erie County, and that Erie County Council "spoke highly" of the firm. "The attorney who handled their case is part of this firm," Cusick pointed out. "We're hoping that he will get [the sale] done [for us], only faster, now that he's been through it."

Marcus said, "We [are getting] this expertise for a modest cost. We're spending $10,000 to make $900,000."

When the bed licenses are sold, Gracedale's official capacity will drop from 725 to 688, Marcus said. That will allow the nursing home to easily qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars more in state reimbursement because Gracedale will exceed the benchmark of 90 percent capacity, he said.

In another Gracedale-related move, council voted 7-0 to raise the cost of a private room by $10 a day.

Gracedale administrator Millard D. Freeman said the move should bring in $35,000 immediately, "and if we market [Gracedale's private rooms], that number should be higher."

Gracedale has 60 private rooms, 35 of them occupied by people who pay for them privately, Freeman said.

Council also approved a three-month, $458,950 contract with Boyle Construction II, Inc., for exterior renovations to the 1822 farmhouse at the Louise Moore Park Homestead, which is being converted into offices for three employees of the Parks Department.

The vote was 6-1, with Cusick dissenting. The council president said the Parks Department employees should be based at Gracedale, not the farmhouse.

The farmhouse, which was built in 1822, will get an exterior paint job and a new roof, windows, shutters and entrance. Some stone repointing and waterproofing also will be done.

Eleven companies had expressed interest in working on the building left to the county -- along with a $2 million endowment for its maintenance -- by Louise Moore Pine, the widow of Dixie Cup Co. founder Hugh Moore. But only Boyle submitted a bid.

Council member Bruce Gilbert said other potential bidders told county officials that they didn't bid on the project because they were "inundated with work."

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