County Board approves Pine Crest management contract with North Central Health Care
Resolution reducing number of legal notices published in newspapers also passed
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
MERRILL – The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to contract with North Central Health Care for the ongoing management of Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill.
As reported in the Aug. 13 edition of the Tomahawk Leader, North Central Health Care, owned and governed by Lincoln, Langlade and Marathon counties, has provided an interim administrator for the Lincoln County-run nursing home since May 2019, following the retirement of the nursing home’s former Administrator, according to a release from NCHC dated Aug. 6, 2019. Pine Crest and NCHC agreed to a 90-day interim period this summer, in which NCHC agreed to provide a full-time on-site licensed nursing home administrator, staff and education support to the Board of Trustees, a review of operations and financial reporting, recruitment support in hiring a new Nursing Home Administrator and a proposed 2020 budget.
“As part of the interim management agreement, NCHC also performed an analysis to determine how and if it would make sense for NCHC to manage Pine Crest on behalf of Lincoln County going forward,” stated a release from NCHC dated Aug. 6.
Pine Crest has seen consistent financial losses in recent years. According to NCHC’s financial projects, Lincoln County would have had to add more than $750,000 to its budget deficit in 2020 to continue to fund the nursing home. Pine Crest had operating losses of $934,363 in 2017 and $646,772 in 2018. According to projections at the end of June, the nursing home faced an end-of-the-year loss of $115,832 in 2019.
Michael Loy, CEO of NCHC, said in a July 31 letter NCHC could, “help to reduce the ongoing financial losses without changing major aspects of Pine Crest, as part of NCHC.”
“By working together, NCHC believes we can change the future direction for Pine Crest. We project that by the end of 2020, we could reduce the structural deficit to around $200,000 and potentially eliminate the losses going into 2021. Most of these improvements would have no impact on direct care,” Loy said in the letter.
The Board approved the appointment of Zach Ziesemer to the position of Lincoln County Pine Crest Administrator.
After some discussion, the Board also approved a resolution to reduce the number of county legal notices that will be published in newspapers. Currently, Lincoln County publishes notices in the Tomahawk Leader and the Merrill Courier.
The decision comes in the wake of talks by county committees and the Board regarding how the county can tackle its nearly $200,000 shortfall in the upcoming budget. By posting notices on the county website instead of publishing them in newspapers, the county estimates an annual savings of roughly $52,000.
Jeremy Ratliff, District 10 Supervisor and Editor of the Merrill Foto News and the Merrill Courier, expressed his concern about the language used in the resolution, referencing a 2008 statute that he interpreted as contradictory to a 2015 statue cited in the resolution.
Numerous Supervisors criticized Ratliff for participating in the discussion of this issue due to his affiliation with a newspaper that would be affected by the resolution. Ratliff did recuse himself from the vote. The resolution was ultimately approved by a voice vote.
This is a developing story and will be updated by the Tomahawk Leader as we learn more about which types of legal notices will no longer be made available in print to our readers.
The next meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the William Buedingen Training Center, W6147 State Road 86, Tomahawk.