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Article published November 23, 2013
Nix Sunnyview sale
Jim Eckstein Butler County Commissioner
“Contemplating the sale of Sunnyview” was Commissioners William McCarrier and Dale Pinkerton's “approach” in their Nov. 6 letter to the Butler Eagle. Contemplating is their rationalization. This process has transpired in an abrupt manner. On Oct. 23, Chairman McCarrier unilaterally contacted the firm to market Sunnyview. On Nov. 7, McCarrier and Pinkerton voted for Marcus & Millichap to send requests for proposals to prospective buyers with a Dec. 13 response date. Actions speak louder than words — and they are acting. Make your voices heard. Sunnyview's historic start was by Butler County voters in 1898. Without your help it will end in 2013. Marketing Sunnyview was not discussed with me or Sunnyview residents/family members. The Sunnyview name reflects the heartfelt family atmosphere to which residents and employees refer as home. It is their Sunnyview on a daily basis. The view overlooking the city is beautiful. If McCarrier and Pinkerton's mission was to sell Sunnyview, then this issue should have been on their campaign platforms. They hid their intentions to sell Sunnyview from the voters. McCarrier and Pinkerton claim that they have laid out a plan to ensure any prospective buyer shares the same values that have made Sunnyview the prized institution it has become. The Nov. 7 RFP specifications are posted on my county webpage for your review. “Among other things, prospective buyers will be required to: • “Pay the full tax rate and will not be eligible for tax-exempt status for at least 10 years. FACT: Compassionate non-profit organizations will be excluded. • “Maintain Sunnyview as a skilled nursing facility.” FACT: 10 year period only) • “Guarantee current residents retain the right to stay for a long as they wish.” FACT: so long as eligible for Skilled Nursing level of care or 10 year period. What if the new owner changes direction? • “Give priority to Butler County residents in future admissions.” FACT: How will this be implemented and monitored? • “Provide detailed information on other nursing homes they operate and their standard of care.” FACT: The RFP does not ask for major violations and corrective action in lawsuits/prior bankruptcy/prior closings of their care facilities. • “Maintain access to Sunnyview for low-income, Medicaid/Medicare recipients.” FACT: A minimum of 70 percent of the licensed long-term care facility beds go to Medicaid payees for 10 years. Private homes will use more stringent admission requirements to deny access and increase profits. • “Recognize the unions that represent the employees of Sunnyview.” FACT: What if bargaining fails? Does the new owner have to enter into a contract? They have the right to sell. Do you believe all these criteria are possible or probable by a for-profit private bean counter whose only concern is the bottom line? Compassion and caring cannot be mandated. Government has leaders and followers. Commissioners McCarrier and Pinkerton are idealogical politicians. They predicted what you wanted to hear and kept repeating that message to get elected. They want to sell Sunnyview because other counties are selling their nursing homes. They want to sell Sunnyview to construct their palatial new building with indoor parking to gain favor among their supporters and cliques. They want to take on $20 million in new indebtedness because the federal and state governments have made it the status quo. I'm a fiscally conservative leader, not a follower. I don't want more debt or higher taxes. I want to come up with a responsible solution to keep Sunnyview. I want to move Sunnyview into a productive and vibrant future. So does the union. It made the necessary concessions to have a balanced budget. Sunnyview provides a vital community service for seniors, working poor, middle class and disabled. We live in a rich country. We are one of the most prosperous counties in Pennsylvania. Why are we cutting services to the middle class, the poor and our senior citizens? Some are suffering from mental illness, dementia, Alzheimers, severe physical disabilities and terminal illnesses. I believe it is entitlement and greed by those in control and power. The mentality is more and more for me and less and less in services for those in dire hardship. It's not what I was taught in my home or in Westminster United Presbyterian Church of Evans City while growing up. I'm surely not going to start changing my ethics and morality now. To McCarrier and Pinkerton, my outspoken presentment of facts and outright honesty has been a form of misbehavior toward their chosen few. How can one justify their behavior directed toward our most vulnerable? I surely cannot.