Committee recommends nursing home renovations but votes to shelve CBRF it fought for in December
An Ozaukee County committee on Tuesday recommended borrowing $7.2 million to renovate and downsize the county’s 48-year-old Lasata Care Center nursing home in Cedarburg.
But, in a stark departure from its stance just four months ago, the Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to shelve plans for the second part of the Lasata Senior Living Campus initiative — what was supposed to be a $3 million, 24-room community-based residential facility (CBRF) that architects recently concluded would cost more than $5.7 million to build.
“I cannot justify spending $5.8 million for 24 units,” Supr. Cynthia Bock, chairman of the committee, said. “It’s just such a different scenario than what the CBRF was supposed to be. The numbers just don’t work.”
In December, the committee pushed hard to move ahead with the CBRF, which was seen at the time as a critical first step in a $10 million effort to improve the quality of care at the Lasata campus and keep it financially viable.
A vote on borrowing for the new facility, however, was delayed by supervisors who insisted the county hire an architectural firm to vet the costs and designs for the proposed facility, as well as the nursing home renovations.
“I don’t want to do the CBRF and find out we don’t have enough for the nursing home,” Supr. Rob Brooks, who led the effort to delay the vote while a study was conducted, said in December.
Brooks and supervisors who agreed with him were accused by proponents of the CBRF of trying to railroad the project.
“I’m not trying to slow-track anything. What I’m saying is let’s get the numbers for the CBRF and the numbers for the nursing home before we move forward,” Brooks said at the time. “To ask (the County Board) to make these decisions without all the numbers is, quite frankly, stupid.”
The county hired Horty Elving, a Minneapolis-based architectural and engineering firm, to analyze the plans for the CBRF and nursing home renovations.
On Tuesday, company representatives told county officials that the CBRF would be considerably more expensive to build than first thought because of code requirements, higher-than-expected construction costs and the physical layout of the building, which would have to be two stories in order to be optimally located on the campus.
The facility would have been an alternative to the nursing home for the frail elderly and those who suffer from conditions such as dementia.
Although it does not make sense to build the CBRF because of its cost and the fact there is significant competition from private providers in this senior living niche, it does make sense to proceed with long overdue nursing home renovations, members of the committee said.
Of the $7.2 million that would be borrowed for the project, about $1.2 million would be spent on infrastructure improvements needed to keep the building operational. This work, which would include replacing vital systems such as heating units, has to be done regardless of whether the County Board approves the larger renovation project and would cost more if done piecemeal over
the next several years, Lasata Senior Living Campus Administrator Ralph Luedtke said.
The remainder of the project would focus on interior renovations that would provide better, more dignified living conditions for residents and a safer environment for employees in what officials refer to as a “right-sized” nursing home.
The number of beds would be reduced from 162 to 134 to accommodate larger private rooms with more spacious bathrooms, updated bathing rooms, new service kitchenettes and renovated nursing stations and resident day rooms.
Other planned projects include the creation of specialized rooms for larger residents, front lobby renovations and improvements to the therapy facilities.
The 134-bed facility would maximize efficiencies, Luedtke said, requiring the equivalent of 35 fewer full-time employees to operate and saving an estimated $25,000 a year in energy costs.
In keeping with the Lasata’s mission of providing affordable care, the mix of residents, about two-thirds of whom can’t afford care and rely on Medicaid, is expected to remain roughly the same.
However, Luedtke said, with additional private rooms, Lasata Care Center may attract a few more “private pay” residents, those who can afford their care and pay more than the government does through Medicaid.
Under that scenario, it is estimated the nursing home would lose an average of $28,000 a year until 2022, when the facility would start generating a surplus. That’s generally considered good
news. Last year, Lasata Care Center lost about $500,000, although that loss was offset by a surplus generated by Lasata Crossings, the recently opened assisted living facility.
Lasata Heights, a senior apartment complex on the campus, will also generate a surplus once on-going renovations to that facility are completed, Luedtke said.
The county would borrow for the renovations, which will require the approval of three-quarters of the board — 20 of its 26 members.
The proposed project was to be presented to the County Board Wednesday. A vote to borrow for the project is not expected until next month at the earliest.