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Vermilion County board extends credit to nursing home

DANVILLE – A line of credit is intended to help Vermilion Manor Nursing Home as its transitions to private owners.

Vermilion County Board members voted unanimously to approve a $1 million line of credit from the county to the nursing home.

The line of credit option is two-fold for the county, which sold the nursing home last month to FNR Healthcare Group. Since Dec. 1, the county has seen Vermilion Manor funds drop from $2.4 million to around $650,000 in mid-June. One two-week payroll alone is a little more than $200,000.

The county also faces paying for vacation days, personal days and compensatory time to current employees at the facility. A total for those payments had not been determined as of Tuesday’s meeting.

Unlike taking out a loan, the nursing home will only draw on the line of credit if necessary. Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the line of credit will “provide a cash cushion” for the nursing home, if needed.

FNR Healthcare Group, which is purchasing the facility for a total of $5.5 million, could take over the nursing home as early as August.

Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Donahue said the county is working with FNR on three major agreements as part of the sale. The goal is Aug. 1, but he added the transfer may not be finalized until the middle of August.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

 Board members approved a new hiring policy regarding residency that is intended to replaced a harder stance on the issue.

In February 2010, the county approved an ordinance dictating that for all non-union employees of Vermilion County should reside within the county. The hiring stance passed on Tuesday dictates the same stance, but considers residency a factor to take into account rather than a requirement for hiring.

District 9 board member Bruce Stark spoke out against the measure and pushed for the county utilizing local resources, such as Danville Area Community College, in order to keep the jobs among local residents. Stark was the sole board member to vote against the policy.

The 2010 ordinance – despite being passed by the county – was not been enforced in part due to a letter received from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office indicating the county could not enforce the policy among elected officeholders over which the county has no authority to control. County board members handle only the budgets for the elected officeholders, who make their own in-house policies.

Currently, there are around 250 non-union employees for the county. Weinard has estimated that only as many as 10-15 positions would be affected by the residential policy.

Donahue gave a report to the board regarding attempts to bring together residents who have had problems with local wind turbines and Invenergy LLC, the company that owns the California Ridge wind farm.

According to Donahue, the county has attempted to act as a go-between for Invenergy and residents Dave Miles of Armstrong and Ted Hartke of rural Fithian, both of whom have raised past complaints about noise issues from the turbines.

He said attempts to bring both sides together and discuss the issue have failed thus far.

“We just want to put them in the same room and say, ‘Can we talk and see what he problem is,’” Donahue said.

He indicated Invenergy is willing to come down with equipment to do a study and determine the problem.

Miles and Hartke – who has since obtained legal counsel – have refused to use a Wisconsin company selected by Invenergy and wants to use a specialist located in Champaign.

“We do not believe this will be fair or impartial,” Miles said during audience comments.

“We’re doing our best to get people to sit down together and solve the problem,” he said.

Donahue said the county has talked to other residents and those talked to did not have the same issues or problems. District 2’s Kevin Green disagreed, saying he has spoken to residents who have problems with the turbines. Some don’t want to speak publicly, Green said, while others are bound by a contract they signed with Invenergy and can’t speak out.

Turbine opponents also alleged that Apex, the company that purchased the land for the Hoopeston Wind Farm, has approached the county about putting in larger wind turbines for the project.

Donahue refuted the statement, indicating Apex has only approached the county regarding design changes for the turbines, but has not specifically indicated larger turbines.

He noted there is a provision in the county’s current wind ordinance for technology changes over time.

The board recognized District 7 board member Larry Mills, who died last week. A black cloth covered his seat and a flower was laid at his spot.

Mills’ vacancy is expected to be formally announced at the August County Board meeting.