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October 3, 2016

Back in the Debt Saddle Again

Guest Columnist

Kirby Delauter


This month we’ll go back to the Citizen’s Nursing Home saga that continues to leave a black mark on Frederick County for multiple reasons, most of all, the way the county executive and the Democrats (including Bud Otis) on the County Council bully their way to get whatever they want.


Case in point, County Executive Jan Gardner used eminent domain, breached contracts, bullied, threatened and harassed her way back into taking the county once again into the nursing home business. She did so with the approval of the four Democrats on the council (yes, Bud Otis is an unaffiliated Democrat) who blessed this entire debacle without ever seeing a financial review how what it would truly cost the county taxpayer today, as well as in the future. It is truly obscene how they (these council members) looked the other way while the executive “violated” a county business and stripped it of its rights.


I’m going to use print from a Frederick News-Post article from September 14, 2016 since, as a council, we received no workshop or briefing on this issue, despite multiple requests to do so by Councilman Billy Shreve and me.


The article stated that Councilman Shreve and I agreed that when the county owned Nursing Home Citizens/Montevue (CCRC/MAL) from 2001 – 2010 it lost an average of $5.4 million annually. That is a fact. The county lost over $54 million in taxpayer funds in those 10 years. It is also a fact that then Commissioner Jan Gardner was in county government during that time. Ms. Gardner stated in the News-Post article that the losses were “only” $3.3 million annually.


So, let’s just use her numbers, the county still lost $33 million over the ten years she was in charge, and somehow she thinks that today, she can do a better job than she did back then and that losing $33 million of your money is…….acceptable.


Executive Gardner stated that the previous County Commissioners sold the facility for $18 Million less than it was worth. This is totally inaccurate. We sold the facility for $30 Million. The facility was built just a few years earlier for $29 Million, and in selling it, we eliminated the $5.4 million annual losses as well.


Ms. Gardner claimed that the facility was worth $45 Million which is totally false; and she has no evidence to back up that nonsense. If you believe that storyline, let me ask you, have you seen any other real estate in Frederick County double in value in the last four years? The answer is an emphatic “NO,” and neither did this nursing facility.


The county executive stated that the county, not Aurora, would have to pay off $6.7 million in bonded indebtedness debt not covered in the sale. Even if that is true, with the losses each year it was sustaining, that’s a little more than one year and your bleeding of red ink stops! It also states that the county will pay Aurora $5.5 Million for a continuing care agreement. If that is the case, what did we save?


A few other notes of interest so you can see how bad a deal this is for the county taxpayer. Had the sale gone through, the county would have retired $30 million in bond debt. As of now, the county will pay over $2 million annually in bond debt.


The County (had the sale to Aurora gone through) would be receiving $536,228.00 in real estate taxes from Aurora annually. Now, with the county as the owner, it is exempt, no real estate taxes will be paid.


The county would have zero financial liability if the sale had gone through. Today, it has 100% obligation and liability.


MS. Gardner stated in an article in The Frederick News-Post that this boondoggle allows the county to continue its long standing tradition of taking care of its own. Again, this is a totally misleading statement.


Aurora was doing that and there were some differences. The care was better under Aurora; the cost was less under Aurora; the employees under Aurora did not cost county taxpayers anything. The county has full liability.


So, the long and short, nothing has changed. Aurora still operates the facility (only now with no liability), the debt service is back in place with taxable bond issuances of $28 million. The county will receive no property tax revenue from this facility, and you, the taxpayers, are backing the entire debacle with your full faith and credit, courtesy of County Executive Jan Gardner, Council President Bud Otis, Council Members MC Keegan–Ayer, Jessica Fitzwater and Jerry Donald.


Thank them the next time you see them. They put you in debt, breached contracts in your name, issued eminent domain on a local tax paying business, and have no clue or plan when the county taxpayer starts losing $5.4 Million again annually, or how they will stop that bleeding.


Don’t blame me, I voted against it.


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