The saga over who is going to run, control, and pay for the two senior care facilities that until 2014 were long under the county’s administration, now appears to be over.

On May 12, the county government and Aurora Holdings VII — the company that had purchased the two centers in 2014, agreed to a lengthy settlement, about 500 pages, that in 18 months’ time will return the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center, and Montevue Assisted Living facility, to the county government.

The county will pay Aurora $5.5 million at closing — but that is money the county withheld from Aurora, and put in escrow after County Executive Jan Gardner, elected in 2014, challenged the original sale agreement. No new money there. The county will pay an additional $2.35 million to Aurora as long as Aurora meets certain performance conditions in its final 18 months of management — among which are guaranteeing the county an annual profit of $2.5 million. So the total out-of-pocket cost of the deal is $7.85 million, plus $388,000 in legal fees spent on the case since Gardner took office (the prior government spent $414,000 on the case), plus $32,000 in mediator fees.

This settlement arises out of several months of mediation, which began with Gardner threatening Aurora with the heavy hammer of eminent domain, in which the government can seize private property for just compensation. She backed up the threat with $800,000 set aside by the County Council. If you’re going to make a threat like that one, you had better be prepared to back it up, and the council vote approving the set-aside did just that. Well played, Jan.

And so will end a three-year ideological and political battle — and one that greatly destabilized the lives of about 250 poor and elderly people living in the two facilities. The fight began under the prior form of county government — the Board of County Commissioners. It was that Blaine Young-led board that moved to privatize the two facilities in 2014 when the paint had barely dried on the two new buildings that the county government had just built for its senior citizens on Rosemont Avenue in Frederick.

The conservatives on the prior board said that county government had no business being in the nursing home business and that it was too costly to do so. But they went up against popular opinion, expressed vociferously and ignored steadfastly, that the county had a commitment to its indigent seniors that it had performed admirably for more than a century and a half and that was tied to the original deed that Elias Brunner used to give the land on which the two facilities sit to the county back in 1828.

That deed was clear: The parcel was to be used “for the benefit of the poor of said county, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.”

In concluding the agreement, Gardner fulfilled a campaign promise. And in a larger sense, Frederick County honored something that makes it unique. The county does look after its own who are in need — not just via government agencies and programs but through countless local charities and churches and nonprofit groups that come together to help the homeless, the disabled, the mentally ill, the addicted, the young, the old, the desperate.

Yet Frederick does this without being too much a nanny state or nanny county. Much of it is done privately. Some is done through innovative public-private partnerships. But all of it is done with generosity of spirit and true dedication to helping people. The profit motive doesn’t play much into it, nor does ideology, or politics. It was these higher values that the former Board of County Commissioners didn’t follow, didn’t listen to, and indeed ran roughshod over.

And they paid the price, didn’t they?

(23) comments

armillary

"And they paid the price, didn’t they?"

Billy and Kirby are relegated to playing cat and mouse games with the County Council, knowing they don't have the votes to do any more damage.

Blaine has a pending trial for solicitation of a prostitute. He will likely get off lightly, but voters now have a true measure of his character.

Four years on top, four years on the bottom. Yes, I'd say they are paying the price. And the four years aren't over.

DickD

I am glad Jan kept her promise and I don't care what she had to do to keep it. Thank you, Jan!

KellyAlzan

It was the selling of the nursing homes that sealed Ba'Lane's fate in county politics. His tenure in county politics was over that night at FCC when he refused to hear the tax payers beg and plead to not sell the nursing homes.

DickD

Not sure about that Kelly, there were a lot of nails in his coffin. [lol]

bmclearen

In my opinion, it's not over until we find out what direction the money was to go in the first place.

jthompson

An issue that Jan, my good friend and former college, and I had honest policy differences. I also sided with the cave men on selling the facility. I acknowledge that all of the political considerations call for keeping Citizens & Montevue part of county government. However, all of the financial considerations suggest otherwise. We should follow the lead of nearly all of the other counties in Maryland and the rest of the country and turn the operation and management of what were once known as the "Old Folks Home" over to those for-profit and non-profit entities that provide the same service in the community without subsidies from the county taxpayers.

bmclearen

Certainly a shame that you feel this way. We should have never crossed the line by attempting to sell/lease/rent the properties against the wishes of the man who sold the property to the county 175 years.

jthompson

I acknowledge that the 1828 Brunner deed land use restriction and the "deal is a deal" concept was and remains a potent political argument. However, I don't believe the restriction is an obstacle to someone other than the county owning or operating the facilities in question. First, such a restriction addresses the use of the land in question, not its ownership. If it was OK to operate nursing & assisted living facilities on the land when the sign above the door said "Frederick County", it should remain OK to operate the same facilities if the sign now says "Aurora". Second, deed restrictions are also subject to changed circumstances. There are numerous and far more recent examples of deed restrictions in the county land records that prohibit the use and occupancy of land by those of a certain religion or skin color. Those restrictions are no longer enforceable. Third, over time, deed restrictions become unenforceable if those who have standing to enforce them "sleep on their rights." Any one driving along Montevue Lane will quickly conclude that, for better or worse, very little of the land subject to the restriction is ". . . used for the benefit of the poor of said county, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.” Lastly, as anyone associated with enforcing HOA restrictions knows, one must ordinarily enforce deed covenants in a uniform manner. I would questions the propriety of enforcing deed restrictions on the basis of politics.

public-redux

Mr. Thompson, Do you think the actual deal struck by the BOCC was good enough?

jthompson

Yes. Given a choice between doing nothing and going with the Young BOCC's deal, I supported the latter. The underlying concern is to end the annual $4 million taxpayer subsidy for an entity whose for-profit and non-profit competitors don't seem to need.

public-redux

I appreciate your reply. I don't think those were the only two choices, however. A third choice would have been crafting a better deal.

KellyAlzan

I have no problem with the homes being sold.

My issue is the deal with the sale. Way under-priced. Money was left on the table that could have been used for schools, police, etc.

My problem also was the handling of the sale and the process. The deal wreaked of crooked behavior.

Sell the nursing homes next year, I don't care, but sell them for fair market value and don't do anything that raises my suspicions

cctjr64

Well Lennie, with a attitude you have being like Blaine's, this is why you didn't make it any other elections after 2010, espisically when you admitted in the Gazette in July 2010 that you couldn't win in Frederick County again.

"He said he finds it very unlikely that he would be voted into another term as county commissioner, so he has been thinking privately about filing for the delegate race for some time. He and the rest of the current Board of County Commissioners have accomplished a lot during his time in office and he feels ready to move on, he said."

MCEDDE21

But without the subsidies, these other “for-profit and non-profit entities” DON'T provide the same service; i.e. care for the indigent. What would you do with them?

jthompson

With the advent of Medicare & Medicaid, the "indigent" receive the same service. If they weren't, there are a lot of Pulitzer Prizes going unclaimed by the investigative journalists.

MCEDDE21

Statistics show that the wealthy class lives, on average, 18 years longer than the poor. In other words, the rich are killing the poor by denying them proper medical care. If you think that the social safety net is adequate, then you need to do more reading. In your comfortable world of self-delusion, you don't have to care about anyone else and you don't. "Pulitzer Prizes" for "investigative journalists"? Yeah. That about sums up your attitude.

FrederickFan

It may also have had something to do with CE Gardner stopping the previous Board from squandering the nursing home assets at a huge $30 million loss to taxpayers just when they were becoming profitable. But this editorial is spot on.

awteam2000

Two of the leftover commissioners still don't listen, Billie and Kirby. They're awful.

bosco

A fact that should be remembered when their terms are up.

bmclearen

Agreed, but on their behalf we must remember that they really don't have any idea what they are doing anyway

DickD

I guess you are saying if they are dumb enough and we are dumb enough to elect them, we deserve what we get?[lol]

cctjr64

GREAT EDITORIAL

gary4books

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