MAYVILLE -Two qualified offers have been made for the Chautauqua County Home.
One is from a locally known group, Absolut Care, which already operates two nursing facilities within the county.
The other bid, meanwhile, comes from an Illinois-based group Altitude Health Services Inc. - which, according to bidder William Rothner, operates four nursing facilities in the country.
"We have previously purchased a couple of county homes, and are interested in growing," Rothner said in an email statement to the OBSERVER when asked of his group's interest in the Dunkirk home, "so when this came up, we were intrigued."
During a special meeting of the County Legislature Wednesday, a representative from the marketing firm Marcus and Millichap discussed the two bids, which were deemed qualified out of 35 interested buyers.
"He's very focused, he wants to do these one step at a time," said Mark Myers, senior vice president for the Chicago-based marketing firm. "What impresses me is, he's young and small enough in the business that he can be focused on the daily operations of his nursing facilities."
Attached to Rothner's $16.5 million offer for the County Home is an article from the Lincoln Journal Star. The March 2011 article highlights the one-year anniversary of Rothner's acquisition of a Lincoln, Neb., nursing home. The facility was running annual deficits and numerous deficiencies before being sold for $8 million.
The nursing facility, now called the Lancaster Manor Rehabilitation Center, posts positive gains, although exact figures have not been released due to its private status as a home. Deficiencies with the state also have been resolved.
"People are really happy with what he has done," Myers said. "He has really turned these facilities around. He hasn't changed any staffing or wages, and he has maintained benefits."
County Executive Greg Edwards said he was pleased to see two offers come in above market value for similar assets. While both bids met the 14 stipulations outlined by the county, each have striking differences.
"It's pretty clear what we have here," Edwards said Thursday. "Altitude Health Services ... answered every one of our stipulations, and is a sale with the money coming in right away. ... Plus it's $500,000 higher than the other one."
Edwards said of Absolut's bid: "It's significantly different. It's money that would be paid over time, which comes with its own complexities with the owner and structure of the facility. They're very different offers, but they both met the minimum requirements."
During Wednesday's special meeting, legislator Tim Hoyer, D-Jamestown, questioned how each bidder planned to make money at a time when the County Home currently runs annual deficits.
When asked, Rothner said: "As a private entity, we will have the freedom and flexibility to add services and/or trim costs where necessary," Rothner said. "However, we have been provided limited due diligence materials and access to management, so any substantive discussion of plans would be premature at this time."
A financial viability report from the Center for Governmental Research should be completed within the next few weeks. It was mentioned Wednesday that the report, commissioned by an ad-hoc committee, would incorporate both offers on the County Home.
"They asked and paid for that study," Edwards said. "It deserves to be reviewed and detailed and I'm pleased to see these two offers with become a part of the analysis.
"I'm anxious for CGR to complete their work, but it will be in our best interest that we push forward with the next step, which if approved to sell, would require 17 votes (by the legislature) to move forward."
BREAKING DOWN THE BIDS
Altitude Health Services Inc., located in Evanston, Ill., has offered a $16.5 million bid for the County Home paid immediately in cash upon the closing date. A $150,000 earnest (good faith) check was given with the offer.
Rothner said, as stipulated, the facility would be operated as a skilled nursing facility for at least 10 years. Current union employees who apply and pass a "basic background check" will be given offers of employment.
No salaries would be cut, Rothner said in his offer, and a comprehensive benefits package would be offered. In addition, preferential admissions will be given to Chautauqua County residents - with at least 80 percent of the home's population residing in the county.
Current residents will have the right to remain in the nursing home, and to streamline efficiency and monitor cash flow, per-patient day staffing and budgets will be established.
"We find that this financial process eliminates agency and minimizes employee overtime," the offer states.
Absolut Care Facilities Management LLC, located in East Aurora, and with local facilities in Dunkirk and Westfield, proposed a lease bid of $1.6 million per year, with an option to buy at $16 million.
The offer was made by Absolut CEO Israel Sherman, and also notes that the facility would remain a nursing home for 10 years, "if not longer."
Current employees, the proposal notes, would have the opportunity to complete an application for future employment. A new collective bargaining agreement would also be established with Absolut Care.
A $150,000 earnest check also accompanied the offer.
"I'm excited to be moving forward" Edwards said. "These offers are just the next step."