The state has rejected the $200,000 grant repayment offered by Frederick County commissioners as part of efforts to sell a publicly held nursing home and assisted living center.
In a letter dated Sept. 20, a state official said she could not accept the county’s check because it was offered prematurely. Commissioners had volunteered to return state funding for Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living as a step toward selling the two facilities.
Sheila McDonald, executive secretary for the Maryland Board of Public Works, wrote that she understood the county’s desire to complete the transactions.
“(H)owever, we must adhere to the grant agreement and to our legislative charge to superintend State debt through appropriate administration of the Capital Grants program. The Board of Public Works clearly expects the county to likewise adhere to its obligations,” she wrote.
Commissioners President Blaine Young said the check return will not slow the county’s march toward the settlement table. Additionally, he said the state’s unwillingness to pocket the refund was predictable.
“I thought they would do that,” he said of state officials. “They’re making politics over it.”
The public works board is weighing in on the future of Citizens and Montevue because the state offered a $200,000 grant for building the centers. The grant agreement stipulates that the county might have to forfeit or return the state funding if the centers are sold without the public works board’s blessing.
Young said if the county violates the agreement, the worst the state could do is to demand the $200,000 repayment already offered voluntarily. Commissioners voted Sept. 5 in a closed session to return the grant money to the state.
Young said the county taxpayers are subsidizing the money-losing centers by millions of dollars each year.
“If the state feels that this is something they want to be involved in, then why don’t they say that they’re willing to pay the shortfall?” Young said.
The Board of Public Works, made up of the Maryland governor, comptroller and treasurer, has discussed the centers at two past meetings and decided to delay its decision until the resolution of litigation filed against the county by sale opponents.
Gregory Bedward, general counsel for the state board, said the decision to return the county’s proffered check happened with input from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. He declined to speculate on what actions the state would take if the county closes on the $30 million sale to Aurora Health Management without waiting for a go-ahead from the public works board.
Lori Depies, county manager, said she, the county attorney and Young will discuss a possible response to the letter received Tuesday from the state board.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.