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Buyer pulls out of negotiations for Pine Crest Nursing Home after Lincoln County Supervisor sues county

Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill
Hannah Davis-Reid
Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill

Negotiations over Pine Crest Nursing Home have fallen apart after Lincoln County supervisor Donald Dunphy sued the county, alleging that they failed to follow best practices for selling a high value property.

The lawsuit argues that the operating deficit experienced by the nursing home in the years prior to 2023 was a substantial part of the reason they wanted to sell.

The lawsuit argues that an increase to Medicaid reimbursement rate paid to public nursing homes eliminated Pine Crest’s operating expense deficits beginning in the first quarter of 2023, and that they ignored the change in circumstances to push the sale through.

Now that there’s a lawsuit against the county, the potential buyers have pulled their offer.

This was some of the discussion at this week’s Administrative and Legislative Committee meeting.

“This letter came as a complete surprise to us. And it leads us to question whether the purchaser was continuing to negotiate in good faith, but that is not for any of us to determine,” said a committee member.

The committee said they plan to use the next few weeks to gather information and prepare to have a comprehensive discussion at their August meeting, which will include a closed session for the purpose of conferring with Corporation Counsel on both the Asset Purchase Agreement and strategy in the Dunphy court case.

They said that Corporation Counsel has communicated with the title company to hold the earnest money, explaining that while senior management has declared this default on Lincoln County under the terms of the APA, it appears the county may be entitled to retain the earnest money.

“All of these repercussions are massive,” said a committee member

“We think it's important to pause just for a moment to reflect and process before we start discussing next steps,” she said.

She said that they will discuss their plans with their Corporation Counsel in closed sessions.

Representative from People for Pine Crest, a local organizing group advocating for the nursing home to remain county-owned, said this is “great news for the people of Lincoln County”.

Michael Southcombe is a founding member of the group.

“There is absolutely no reason, no reason whatsoever, to sell Pine Crest at this point. If the County Board of Supervisors, if they cannot run a nursing home, they don't have any business running a county at this point,” he said.

He said he hopes that future discussions are held in open sessions.

“We're hoping that everything they do will be done in open sessions and will be done with clear communication to the citizens they represent. And there won't be any more backdoor meetings where they plan things and then just rubber stamp them when they're in session,” he said

WXPR requested an interview with the Lincoln County Board Chair ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, but did not get a response.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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