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After 13 months of uncertainty and facing closure, the staff of Neligh’s nursing facility took their first collective breath on Tuesday night.
In front of 22 staff members, who represented more than 400 total years of employment at the nursing facility, the Neligh City Council unanimously approved the authorization of Klaasmeyer & Associates to continue negotiations for the purchase of the nursing home for a total sum of $350,000.
“It was a relief,” said Stephanie Stuhr, who has been working at the facility of 11 years and is now the administrator. “I was positive and had faith, but now I can go back and tell the staff that the City does stand behind us and we’re going to be OK.”
Ken Klaasmeyer of Klaasmeyer & Associates, who has been managing the facility since it was placed into receivership in March 2018, told the city council that it had been a roller coaster the last week on whether the facility would be sold or close its doors. At one point he was told the facility would be available for $700,000, but then he was told it wouldn’t. More yes, then nos followed until eventually the price was negotiated to $350,000 with an agreement to sell it to the City of Neligh.
“Quite honestly, if it doesn’t move ahead, it’s probably going to close,” Klaasmeyer told the council before they approved negotiations. “I’m not threatening. This is reality.”
Klaasmeyer said he asked the representatives from Golden Living, “You would rather close Neligh than get the $350,000 for it? And the response was yes, which boggled my mind. But then they came back.”
Forty minutes into Tuesday’s special meeting, council member Leonard Miller made a motion with Hughes seconding. The motion passed 4-0.
Stuhr admitted even though she had faith in the City of Neligh, she was relieved to hear the unanimous vote.
“We haven’t had a lot of turnover even with the receivership. We’ve stuck together and leaned on each other,” she said. “Family taking care of family. That’s what we’ve been saying over and over, and we’re doing that.”
Although the council did approve negotiations, member Brent Pickrel said he had concerns with purchasing a struggling private business, saying he didn’t want to burden the tax payers with bailing out the facility.
Several staff of Neligh Care & Rehab spoke out and said the facility had been struggling due to few updates over the years. They also said if the facility closed, that would put more of a burden onto the taxpayers because employees would be forced to take other jobs and leave the city with their families.
Several in the audience said closure would impact the hospital and pharmacies immediately, but also other businesses as families moved away. Pickrel nodded in agreement and voted in favor during roll call.
Klaasmeyer said his company, which has been overseeing management since Neligh Care & Rehab became one of 21 facilities placed into receivership, may manage or lease the facility from the City of Neligh.
Many decisions remain for the City of Neligh, including how to finance the purchase and updates. Neligh City Attorney Jim McNally said the electric fund could cover the initial purchase of $350,000, but he encouraged council members to consider investing $500,000 toward immediate improvements.
The City also must decide if they will seek a new Medicaid number or use the existing number.
While the latter would grandfather the facility into not having to add bathrooms for residents, there are other challenges that may occur with the existing number. Klaasmeyer said the City has time to make decisions and will not even need to finance the purchase for another three to six months.