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The York County commissioners voted to begin soliciting bids for the sale of Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, but the county will continue seeking public input before making any final decisions.

Selling the county-owned nursing home, which taxpayers have subsidized to the tune of about $75 million during the past 10 years, has been discussed for many years because of its rising costs.

During their meeting Wednesday, Jan. 31, the commissioners unanimously voted to enter into an agreement with Susquehanna Group Advisors to allow the Harrisburg-based consultant "to explore the possibility of finding a reputable, quality skilled-care operator to acquire" the nursing home.

The consultant group — which has helped sell similar facilities in Adams, Armstrong and Lebanon counties, among others — would receive 1.1 percent of the purchase price as its fee if the facility is sold.

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Commissioner Doug Hoke, who has long been a proponent of the county continuing to operate Pleasant Acres, said the decision to sell is probably the toughest he's faced in more than 10 years in office.

"My heart says one thing, but my financial background tells me to explore all possibilities," he said. "I'm glad we're doing our due diligence."

Jay Wenger, managing director for Susquehanna Group Advisors, explained that the entire process — including submitting a request for proposal, evaluating bids and meeting with potential buyers — will likely take six to nine months.

Based on initial feedback he's received from companies that operate nursing homes, Wenger said he'd be surprised if the county received fewer than eight to 10 proposals.

Wenger said any contract would include stipulations to allow current residents of Pleasant Acres to stay as long as they want and continue to prioritize local senior citizens with a high Medicaid population.

He added that, in his experience, for-profit companies that buy county-owned nursing homes typically offer employment to almost everyone that is on staff when the purchase is made.

The goal is to find an operator that will increase or, at the least, maintain the quality of care Pleasant Acres residents currently receive, Wenger said.

Several Pleasant Acres employees spoke during the commissioners' meeting about their concerns for the level of care a for-profit provider might provide, and commissioners assured them that the residents' care is their top priority.

Hoke emphasized that, while the decision will ultimately be made by commissioners, the nursing home is owned by taxpayers, so commissioners want to hear the public's thoughts about the possible sale.

Commissioners will hold public, town hall-style meetings regarding the decision at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13, March 7 and March 27 at the county 911 center, 120 Davies Drive in Springettsbury Township.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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