With an election behind us, and a change in the balance of power on the Freeholder Board, the Cumberland Manor once again looms overhead. The Republican majority is fairly headstrong on selling it. Bill Whelan seems to be in agreement, the other Democrats, I am not sure.
I have looked into all sides of this issue, and I am still not decided one way or the other. There is public debate, but much of it centers on feelings rather than harsh reality. Some centers on philosophical viewpoints, such as “government has no business running a health care facility” and “only with a county run facility can we be certain of quality care”.
I don’t necessarily agree with either – and I certainly try to avoid dogmatism that would override common sense or practical decisions. Yes, I am Republican, but just as I think that government should keep its nose (and laws) our of peoples pants and bedrooms, there are times when public/private partnerships actually do work. And I don’t believe that greed is good. Greed depleted the great herds of buffalo that used to roam the West. Greed was the reason for shoddy materials and an improper response to the Gulf oil spill. Greed caused our current economic crisis as bankers looked only int the money they were raking in at the time, and refused to believe that disaster would affect them.
Gary Simmerman, one of the few saner voices under the Magazzu regime, has some ideas that are reported in today’s News. At the recent public hearing about the sale of the Manor, he spoke up.
“I believe that the Manor can still be a revenue producing facility for the county, if it can be managed properly,” said Simmerman, standing before five of the seven freeholders — James Dunkins and Jane Jannarone were unable to attend — and approximately 95 residents split between two rooms at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building.
It is interesting that the two lame duck freeholders refused to take part in this second of two hearings. Crying over spilt milk, it appears that they will not live up to their obligations to serve the people of the county as they count the days down to their retirement. Their refusal to take part in the public discourse is indicative of their true motives in politics. They obviosuly were not there to serve the public interest, at least that is how I would call it.
If you are going to privatize anything, the county landfill is the logical place to begin. With Don Rainear in charge, it seems the entire thing has become a boondoggle. What happened to the surplus money? Nobody knows. At the very least, a private company would put a qualified person in charge.
Concerns that nobody is discussing regarding a sale of the manor are manifold. How much will it cost to temporarily relocate the prosecutor’s office, again? It cost $2 million for the last move. How much money does the county stand to lose in PEER funding? PEER funds many vital safety-net social service programs that our seniors rely on, especially now in this decrepit economy. This money will go “poof!” as soon as the Manor leaves county hands. Where will the Blind Center relocate, and how much will that lease add to the county tax burden if they are forced to lease space? Will the prosecutor’s be forced to lease space in the interim, also? What about the maintenance yard?
It is fact that the Manor can be a money making proposition. Historically, the Manor did make a profit. That is, until the MWatch raison d’être, Lou Magazzu gained power.
Can a private nursing home provide quality care at a reasonable price? One need look no further than Genesis in Millville, or Matre Dei in Gloucester County. But on the other side, the entities interested in taking control don’t have what I would call a stellar record. And unfortunately a majority of privately owned facilities have a history of providing poor care, engaged in Medicaid fraud, and have been the center of abuse investigations. If a sale is to be considered, the welfare of the residents of the Manor must be a priority. No entity purchasing that has a history of poor management or any sort of involvement in fraud should be considered.
Whatever is decided, we must be taking two steps forward, not one step back.