SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - Are local leaders considering selling Lehigh County-owned Cedarbrook nursing home?
Its fate is the topic of discussion as county leaders head into the budget process.
The county executive says Cedarbrook is a four-star asset that despite losing millions, can be profitable again.
County commissioners say they want more information.
Cedarbrook in South Whitehall Township has operated on a multimillion dollar deficit two years in a row.
A consultant was hired to make recommendations on how to fix that.
County Executive Tom Muller ran with one recommendation in his capital plan by asking for $3-million for renovations at the facility.
But county commissioners slashed the money from the plan, saying they wanted to look closer at the other options.
"By taking every penny out of the capital plan for renovations out there they are basically saying we don't want to do anything," said Muller.
"Before you throw millions of dollars in the capital plan, we should know where you want to spend it and why and what is going to be the consequences," said County Commissioner Vic Mazziotti.
Here are the options: continue existing operations, boost revenue while reducing expenses, build a replacement facility, lease to a new operator, transfer the facility to a non-profit or sell it.
Mazziotti says commissioners need more information from county administration on how the $3-million will be spent and exactly what the ramifications are of the other five options, including a sale.
"We don't really know the consequences, the fiscal consequences of selling this facility we have a sense about what it is but we really don't know there are a bunch of unanswered questions," said Mazziotti.
Muller says the commission will have those answers in October.
Muller says the money for the renovations could come from two special funds, one of which is earmarked specifically for Cedarbrook, but until then, the county is finding new ways to market the facility and increase its census.
He says Cedarbrook is a valuable service the county needs to invest in.
"This is not something that you run away from. You do not tell grandma that we are not going to support her in this house," said Muller.
Mazziotti says exploring the other options could take a few weeks.
If county commissioners get the information they need and agree, the improvements can be put into the budget in January.
Allentown, PA 18102