Health Care Center still center of CIP talks
The future of Portage County Health Care Center (PCHCC) is all the talk – nearly $9 million in other proposed needed capital improvements in the county can barely get a word in edgewise.
Despite the announcement Monday, Aug. 1, that the Capital Improvements/Economic Development Committee would spend little time discussing whether the county would spend $10 million to enter into a public-private partnership to construct a new Health Care Center, the majority of the 45 minutes spent on the 2017-22 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) focused on the proposal.
Committee Chair Phil Idsvoog announced the Health Care Committee was holding a public information meeting Wednesday, Aug. 3, about the issue, so Monday’s meeting would address the remaining $9 million in proposed improvements for 2017.
But those in attendance Monday – residents and county supervisors alike – kept bringing the discussion back to the Health Care Center.
The CIP/Economic Development Committee will meet Sept. 8 to vote on the 2017-22 CIP in order to bring the plan forward to County Board supervisors Sept. 20. Idsvoog said whether the committee will meet again before September depends on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting.
The public-private health care continuum venture would be with the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis (SSJ-TOSF), Milwaukee Catholic Home (MCH) of Milwaukee and Presbyterian Home & Services (PHS) of St. Paul, Minn. The new nonprofit senior care campus would be called Joseph’s Pine Grove Inc. and would be located on the 40 acres owned by the Sisters on Maria Drive.
The partnership proposal includes constructing a $45 million to $50 million campus that includes senior living apartments, assisted living units, memory care assisted living units and between 60 and 70 beds for the new health care center.
The county’s $10 million contribution would go toward the estimated $15 million cost for constructing the new Health Care Center.
Supervisor Julie Morrow, District 5, questioned how the county got to this point, where it is on the cusp of giving $10 million to a Catholic group to build a Health Care Center. Going to a bidding process to work with other groups and/or facilities in the county that may be interested in providing skilled nursing care might be a better investment, she said.
“We have a lot of anti-Catholic attitudes in this county,” she said. “They aren’t going to see this as open … why not go to bid.”
She also suggested that committee members who are Catholic should abstain from the vote. “If anything can come back to bite you, it’s this bias,” Morrow said.
County residents Reid Rocheleau and Mary Ann Laszewski continued asking questions related to the health care campus business practices as well as guarantees for existing Health Care Center employees and that the nursing home would house Portage County residents or at the least give them top priority.
County officials clarified that the PCHCC is bound by Medicaid regulations, which means that the existing HCC does not solely accept Portage County residents; by law, if someone applies to the center, meets all admission criteria, and that person qualifies for Medicaid and there is room, it doesn’t matter whether that person resides in Portage County or elsewhere, that person would get the room.
“We admit from just about any state in the USA that can meet regulatory guidelines,” PCHCC Administrator Marcia McDonald said in a separate interview Tuesday. Along with Portage County residents, currently the center houses two residents of Wood County and one from Waushara County.
County-City Building upgrades
The 2017-22 proposed CIP projects also include $5.2 million in 2017 for the new Government Center, and repairing and updating projects in the County-City Building.
Rocheleau questioned construction of a Government Center if the County-City Building receives upgrades.
“Remodel that building and perhaps we don’t need a new courthouse,” he said.
Committee members Jim Gifford and Jeanne Dodge countered that the issue at the courthouse is safety, not size.
“You’ve got victims, families of victims, jurors and defendants who are going before the judge over there, that’s unsafe,” Gifford said. “The cost to do it right could be roughly the same as building a new one.”
The County-City Building projects tagged for 2017 include plumbing inspection, courthouse and under building ramp replacement, and tuck pointing and caulking totaling $145,000. The following year, $890,000 is slated for elevator and cab replacements and window replacements with upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, electrical and plumbing scheduled for 2018.
Other CIP items
Portage County officials also will have to find another way of funding new firearms for the Sheriff’s Department in the future.
Committee members agreed that the $95,320 request to upgrade and replace firearms and related equipment over the next three years is not a capital improvement project. The CIP meeting, however, was discussion-only so no action was taken Monday.
“It doesn’t fit the criteria of a capital improvement project,” Gifford said. He used the example of upgrading and replacing items for an IT system, whereby all the computers and technology would need to be in place at one time in order for the system to function correctly.
“This never should have been in the plan as it was,” he said. “One gun doesn’t depend on another one being there.”
The committee did not address how the firearms should be funded in the future.
Other projects in the CIP for 2017 include library air system and roof repairs and boiler, chiller, window and lighting replacement; county road bridge replacements and highway facility roof replacement; video conferencing equipment; parks paving, chip sealing, campground expansion and toilet replacements; and radio system enhancement and radio tower construction.