York County commissioners vote to sell Pleasant Acres for $30.8 million

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Attendees walk out of the York County Commissioners meeting after the commissioners voted to sell the Pleasant Acres Nursing Home, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

York County commissioners have voted to sell Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, with only Commissioner Doug Hoke voting against the proposal.

The final decision was made during the commissioners' bimonthly public meeting Wednesday, May 2.

President Commissioner Susan Byrnes proved to be the deciding vote after Hoke explained why he wouldn't vote to sell the home and Commissioner Chris Reilly explained why he would.

After thanking nursing home administrators and those who helped during the exploratory process, Byrnes called for a vote and voted with Reilly to sell the home. She and the other commissioners declined to talk to media following the meeting.

As residents left the meeting, expressing disappointment with the decision, commissioners approved a motion to pursue a sale with Premier Healthcare Inc. for $30.8 million.

Premier: The sale is expected to be finalized in July, and Premier will hold town-hall meetings with residents and employees beforehand, according to a county news release issued a couple of hours after the meeting.

That sale price also includes the York County Annex, which currently houses the county coroner's office, conservation district and a magisterial district court office, and the Elm Spring independent senior living units, according to county spokesman Mark Walters.

Premier will offer free rent to the county for the annex building through the end of 2020, the release states.

Byrnes told residents leaving that she wished they would stay to hear more about Premier Healthcare, but most still left.

Premier has previously bought four other county-owned nursing homes, including the purchases of facilities in Armstrong and Washington counties last year.

Reilly said the 17-member review committee that visited sites of potential buyers overwhelmingly preferred Premier, and Byrnes emphasized that all current residents will be allowed to stay.

She added that Premier maintains a minimum of 80 percent Medicaid patients in its facilities and has a 95 percent staff retention rate when it purchases county homes.

Pleasant Acres Nursing Home. (Dawn J. Sagert - The York Dispatch)

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Jason Rodes, a longtime Pleasant Acres employee, said he was in shock following the decision — he thought Byrnes would side with Hoke — and very hurt.

Rodes said the decision about whether he will stay under new ownership will come down to health insurance and wages because he has a family of five.

He already makes less money than he could working elsewhere because he cares so much about the residents, he said.

A Right-to-Know request made by The York Dispatch found that 22 Pleasant Acres employees — some of whom had worked there for decades — have resigned or retired since the county announced it was exploring a possible sale, and three more have given notice of intent to retire during the next few months.

January announcement: Commissioners first advertised that they were considering the sale when they hired Susquehanna Group Advisors in late January "to explore the possibility of finding a reputable, quality skilled-care operator to acquire" the county-owned nursing home.

The deal specified that the Harrisburg-based consultant firm would receive 1.1 percent of the final sale price as payment, which means they will receive just less than $340,000.

The county has operated a nursing home since 1805, and the current 375-bed facility in Springettsbury Township has been operating since 1931.

Commissioners have cited rising taxpayer subsidies to Pleasant Acres as their reason for exploring the sale.

York County President Commissioner Susan Byrnes asks the public to stay to hear their choice of who will purchase the Pleasant Acres Nursing Home as people walk out of public meeting following the vote, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Commissioners: Reilly, who has publicly supported selling the facility for numerous years, said before the vote that he learned during the last few months that, in addition to easing the burden on taxpayers, selling the home would be the best decision for the residents living there.

"We can't provide what residents deserve," he said, noting a lack of funds available to make capital improvements.

Byrnes said Premier has committed to invest $4 million during the next five years to make capital improvements at Pleasant Acres, including wireless internet and new medical equipment. 

The county also has agreed to create a $1 million Pleasant Acres endowment fund — with costs split between the county and Premier — to help take care of residents.

Residents: The county held three public town-hall meetings ahead of the decision, and those who spoke during public comment overwhelmingly expressed disappointment that the county was considering the sale and pleaded with officials to keep the home.

Numerous residents threatened that they would actively work to ensure the commissioners are not re-elected if they chose to sell Pleasant Acres. All three will be up for re-election in 2019.

About a dozen residents spoke during Wednesday's meeting before the vote, urging commissioners to keep the nursing home under county control.

Jim Fahringer, of Springettsbury Township, told the commissioners they've done a lot of great things for the county, but the Pleasant Acres decision was probably going to be the most important decision they'd ever made.

York County Commissioner Doug Hoke says that he will vote against the proposal to sell the Pleasant Acres Nursing Home during a public meeting, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

"Vote your conscience," he said.

Hoke, in his 11th year as a commissioner, said before the vote that this was by far his most difficult decision, and he would vote against selling because he wasn't 100 percent convinced it was the best decision.

After the vote, he said that despite his opposition, he would be positive moving forward to ensure a seamless transition.

York County is one of just 18 counties that still operates a nursing home in Pennsylvania — Allegheny County operates four.

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