City reverses Citizens-Montevue subdivision

Some now hope county will reconsider sale
Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
11/27/2013
The Frederick County Board of County Commissioners will need to retrace its steps when pursuing the privatization of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living facility. The city's Zoning Board of Appeals voted Tuesday to reverse the city Planning Commission's decision to subdivide the land. The land the centers sit upon must be subdivided from the rest of the parcel they are on in order for the county to sell the land and privatize the centers. The Board of County Commissioners voted this past summer to privatize the centers. A planned sale to Millersville-based Aurora Health Management, which is now operating the centers, is not yet final. The plan has faced opposition from residents and members of the centers' former board of trustees, who think the centers should continue to serve as public entities serving low-income residents. The board of trustees was dissolved in June when the county commissioners voted to move forward with the sale of the two facilities. In its decision Tuesday, the board agreed with the one former board member and two residents who appealed the Planning Commission's decision in a few ways, stating that the county's application was not complete, and the commission should have considered the intent of the subdivision and how the county's plan for the land would affect city residents. The commission erred when considering the incomplete application, erred in failing to evaluate whether the plan conflicted with the city's comprehensive plan, and erred when thinking that that they were restricted from asking the county its plan for the land, said Jim Racheff, zoning board chairman. The zoning board voted unanimously to vacate the approval of the subdivision, and remand it back to the planning process.

Vote set on Citizens, Montevue land next week

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
11/19/2013
Frederick County commissioners could be forced to take a step backward in their mission to privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living facility. The city of Frederick’s Zoning Board of Appeals is to make a final decision Nov. 26 on whether the city’s Planning Commission was justified in May when it approved the county’s request to subdivide the centers’ land. The county asked to split the 41-acre site into two parcels — one with Citizens and Montevue, and the other with the remaining buildings. The land must be subdivided to move forward with the sale of the centers. After the Planning Commission voted to subdivide the land, commissioners voted to privatize the centers. A planned sale to Millersville-based Aurora Health Management is not yet final.

County files motion for judgment on Citizens, Montevue case

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/13/2013
Attorneys for Frederick County have asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking the sale of a county-owned nursing home and assisted living center. A motion for summary judgment filed last week argues that county commissioners have the authority to make policy decisions, such as whether to privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. The document submitted to Frederick County Circuit Court also asserts that a 185-year-old deed does not bar the county from disposing of the facilities. The court has not yet scheduled a hearing on the motion, but a attorney representing the county said they want to resolve the lawsuit expeditiously.

City's appeal board reconsidering Citizens, Montevue subdivision

Frederick News Post
Jen Bondeson
10/23/2013
The members of Frederick’s Zoning Board of Appeals are considering whether to reverse the city Planning Commission’s decision to subdivide Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility. Subdividing the land allows the Board of County Commissioners to proceed with selling it and privatize the centers. On Tuesday night, the board heard a May 7 appeal of the Planning Commission decision from Frederick law firm Powell Flynn, filed on behalf of Janie Denn and Kathleen Murphy, who live near the centers, and Charles Trunk III, former chairman of the Citizens and Montevue board of trustees. But no decisions were made Tuesday; the board continued the item to another hearing. About 40 residents attended the appeal hearing, often scoffing when the county and city attorneys spoke. On behalf of the appellants, attorney Paul Flynn of Powell Flynn said Tuesday that when considering the subdivision request, the Planning Commission should have considered the potential sale of the land, and should have realized the impact the subdivision and sale would have on the community. The county’s application was also incomplete at the time the commission approved it, making it defective when filed, Flynn said. When approving the subdivision, the Planning Commission members stated that, because they were approving a subdivision request only, the potential sale and use of the land were not in their purview. The Planning Commission made several errors regarding their analysis of the case, Zoning Board of Appeals chair Jim Racheff said. Racheff said the commission never bothered to ask the intent of the subdivision, and it seems from their testimony that they did not feel they were allowed. Because they did not think they could ask of the intent, “they just simply didn’t consider any of these elements” of whether there are mitigating factors on the impact of the land. Racheff said that the Planning Commission erred when considering the code. There should have been a lot more delving into the issue, said board member Gail Colby.

County responds to legal challenge of Citizens, Montevue sale

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/19/2013
A roughly 200-year-old deed doesn't present an obstacle in Frederick County's move to privatize its nursing home and assisted living centers, attorneys for the county argue. In response to a legal complaint filed by sale opponents, the county's attorneys assert that governments must have the flexibility to dispose of property if they feel it is the best interests of citizens. Operations at Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living have cost taxpayers more than $53 million since 2000, and county officials have the authority to decide when enough is enough, attorneys wrote in legal filings. Those who want the county to keep Citizens and Montevue have challenged the sale with a pair of cases filed in Frederick County Circuit Court. Earlier this month, attorneys for the county submitted a defense to the larger of the two cases. The filing zeroed in on debate surrounding a deed drawn up in 1828 when Elias Brunner sold 88 acres to the county "for the Benefit of the Poor of said County, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever." The plaintiffs have argued this statement clashes with the county's plan to hand over the facilities to a for-profit company. Montevue provides reduced-cost, assisted living care to residents who cannot afford to pay full price.

Jan Gardner on her board's budget achievements

Frederick News Post
Jan Gardner
09/26/2013
Citizens deserve the facts. A recent letter to the editor by the Young Board of County Commissioners (absent Commissioner David Gray) provided inaccurate information about the county budget. The Gardner board managed the county budget responsibly, controlled spending and earned the first AAA bond rating for Frederick County. By contrast, the Young board has increased spending, raised taxes and redirected significant taxpayer dollars to subsidize new development projects while cutting services to the community’s neediest residents. These are the facts: Fact: Over the four years of the Gardner board, the budget grew from $436.7 million to $438.3 million, an increase of $1.6 million. Over only the first three years of the Young board, the budget grew from $438.3 million to $516.3 million, an increase of $78 million. If the fire tax budgets are separated out, over three years, the Young board increased the budget from $438.3 million to $474.1 million, an increase of $35.8 million. Fact: The Young board raised taxes when the fire tax districts were shifted into the operating budget.

Jan Gardner on her board’s budget achievements

Frederick News Post
Jan Gardner
09/26/2013
Citizens deserve the facts. A recent letter to the editor by the Young Board of County Commissioners (absent Commissioner David Gray) provided inaccurate information about the county budget. The Gardner board managed the county budget responsibly, controlled spending and earned the first AAA bond rating for Frederick County. By contrast, the Young board has increased spending, raised taxes and redirected significant taxpayer dollars to subsidize new development projects while cutting services to the community’s neediest residents. These are the facts: Fact: Over the four years of the Gardner board, the budget grew from $436.7 million to $438.3 million, an increase of $1.6 million. Over only the first three years of the Young board, the budget grew from $438.3 million to $516.3 million, an increase of $78 million. If the fire tax budgets are separated out, over three years, the Young board increased the budget from $438.3 million to $474.1 million, an increase of $35.8 million. Fact: The Young board raised taxes when the fire tax districts were shifted into the operating budget.

Open meetings complaints filed against Frederick County commissioners

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
09/25/213
At least two complaints of an Open Meetings Act violation have been lodged against the Frederick County commissioners for their closed-session vote on a $200,000 grant repayment. The submissions to the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board claim that the decisions should have happened in the open because they relate to public business. Middletown resident Sonja Sperlich wrote one of the complaints, and The Frederick News-Post submitted the other. County commissioners voted Sept. 5 to send the $200,000 check with a letter to the state in order to facilitate the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. Sperlich’s letter references several portions of state law to bolster her argument that commissioners breached the Open Meetings Act. The law’s intent is to ensure that “except in special and appropriate circumstances, public business be performed in an open and public manner and citizens be allowed to observe the performance, deliberations and decisions of the BOCC,” Sperlich, former chairwoman of the Citizens board of trustees, wrote in her complaint.

Citizens and Montevue residents carry on despite fears about sale

Frederick News Post
Rachel S. Karas
09/09/2013
To see that it's business as usual at Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living in Frederick, just look at the parking lot. The county-owned facilities hosted an antique car party on Saturday to kick off Assisted Living Week, which runs nationwide through Sept. 14. Shiny black vintage cars were signs of normalcy at the facility, which is hoping to keep its cool despite an ongoing legal battle and impending $30 million sale to Aurora Health Care Management that will decide the home's future. Aurora took over as the center's management on Aug. 1 with little change to daily operations, according to Montevue administrator Diane Grove. "We're trying to make it as seamless as possible," Grove said. "I think it can only enhance our programs." The county commissioners' vote to privatize the home in June has residents on edge as they await a decision from the state Board of Public Works.

Citizens and Montevue’s $200,000 sticking point

Frederick News Post
08/25/13
On Wednesday, Commissioners President Blaine Young got to feel what it's like for many who stand on the podium across from him -- he was overruled. Young was in Annapolis alongside other county officials for a Board of Public Works hearing on the county's $30 million sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living to Aurora Health Management, a move that will ultimately privatize the two senior care homes, taking them out of public hands and ending close to two centuries of publicly supported care. The board, made up of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, didn't go Young's way. The sticking point was the state's investment of $200,000 -- later revised to $191,000 -- for the construction of the two centers. Those grants give the BPW a say in the disposition of Citizens and Montevue. Instead, because of two lawsuits pending against the county commissioners, and despite Young's grandstanding flourish of a $200,000 check while at the hearing's podium, the board voted to delay the sale until two lawsuits brought by opponents are resolved.

Citizens and Montevue's $200,000 sticking point

Frederick News Post
08/25/13
On Wednesday, Commissioners President Blaine Young got to feel what it's like for many who stand on the podium across from him -- he was overruled. Young was in Annapolis alongside other county officials for a Board of Public Works hearing on the county's $30 million sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living to Aurora Health Management, a move that will ultimately privatize the two senior care homes, taking them out of public hands and ending close to two centuries of publicly supported care. The board, made up of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, didn't go Young's way. The sticking point was the state's investment of $200,000 -- later revised to $191,000 -- for the construction of the two centers. Those grants give the BPW a say in the disposition of Citizens and Montevue. Instead, because of two lawsuits pending against the county commissioners, and despite Young's grandstanding flourish of a $200,000 check while at the hearing's podium, the board voted to delay the sale until two lawsuits brought by opponents are resolved.

Violating the Open Meetings Act is no laughing matter

Frederick News Post
08/24/13
When is a quorum, not a quorum? Don't waste your time asking Frederick County Commissioner Kirby Delauter that question. Judging by his reaction of last week's unfavorable opinion by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board he's "not going to lose any sleep on it." Not to be outdone, Commissioner Billy Shreve told Frederick News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers, after learning about the ruling, that the compliance board's decision won't change his approach to talking about county issues. What we find troubling is that it's this kind of arrogance and disrespect for government transparency that continues to be the hallmark of the majority of this current board of commissioners. In case you missed it, the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled last week that three commissioners, including Delauter and Shreve, violated the state's Open Meetings Act when they talked about the pending sale of two county-owned facilities on a local radio program on June 15.

Let voters decide

Frederick News Post
08/21/2013
A small group of county residents has filed a new lawsuit to block the county’s sale of Montevue Assisting Living and Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center to a private, for-profit company. Those who filed the complaint in Frederick County Circuit Court last Friday all have a personal or emotional connection with the institutions. They include two current residents of Montevue; two member of the institutions’ former board of trustees, which the Frederick County Commissioners dissolved earlier this year; donors to the two institutions; a relative of a Montevue resident; a neighbor who lives next to the facilities; and a descendent of Elias Bruner, who sold the Montevue property to the county in 1828, the deed of which stipulated that the property was to be used only to benefit the poor. The suit consists of five counts, among them that the county lacked the legal authority to privatize the institutions, that doing so would deprive the community’s of its safety net for the poor, and that the two facilities had not been given a reasonable opportunity to become financially self-sufficient. Every indication we have it that county residents, on balance, believe these institutions are a credit to the community and a worthwhile use of the small percentage of taxpayer money that they require. We support that position.

Lawsuit attempts to block Citizens, Montevue sale

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/20/2013
Assisted-living residents, charitable givers and several others have filed a lawsuit against Frederick County commissioners seeking to prevent two county-owned care centers from being sold to a for-profit company. The five-count complaint lodged Friday in Frederick County Circuit Court argues that county commissioners have no authority by state law to privatize Montevue Assisted Living and Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center. The plaintiffs also contend that handing the facilities over to a company will deprive the community of a safety net for its elderly citizens. “The Commissioners, over strenuous public opposition, and without undertaking any analysis as to public need, agreed to sell this property to a private company having no obligation to care for those who cannot afford it,” the complaint stated.This is the second court challenge initiated by opponents of the county’s $30 million sale agreement with Aurora Health Management. However, Friday’s lawsuit is more detailed and has a longer list of complainants than the previous filing, said Leslie Powell, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Interested buyer to begin running Citizens, Montevue

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/31/2013
The county-owned nursing and assisted living homes are set to see a change in management this week, as the company interested in buying the facilities gets a jump-start on running them. On Thursday, Aurora Health Management will take the reins at Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living on a month-to-month contract that is expected to last until the Millersville-based company purchases the two facilities. County commissioners on June 25 voted to sell the centers to Aurora for $30 million. Aurora will take over for LW Consulting, a Pennsylvania business that has managed Citizens and Montevue for more than 18 months. The county has agreed to pay Aurora $50,000 per month to run the facilities and head up everything from purchasing to health care reporting.

Citizens, Montevue sale opponents take cause to court

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/25/2013
Opponents of privatizing the local government-owned nursing and assisted living centers say they have launched a legal challenge against Frederick County for its decision to sell the facilities. A copy of the petition for judicial review shows it was filed Tuesday in Circuit Court by five Frederick County residents. One lives at the assisted living center. The one-paragraph document did not lay out the petitioners’ reasons for taking legal action, but their attorney provided additional context in a letter to state officials. In the correspondence to the Maryland Board of Public Works, the attorney raised several issues about the June 25 public hearing where commissioners voted 4-1 to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. “The evidence at the hearing was contrary to the BOCC’s blanket assertion that the property was no longer needed for any public use,” Leslie Powell wrote in the July 23 letter. “Particularly troubling to the public was the fact that the BOCC members had already made up their minds and stated their intended vote prior to the hearing.”

Choosing Young's adventure [and] Legislators get low marks from group [and] Center sale opponents organize rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/19/2013
A state environmental scorecard for 2013 was released this week, and a couple of Frederick County legislators scored zeros. Sen. David Brinkley was one of the two local lawmakers who failed to win (any) points with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2013. But Brinkley says it is important to consider how the league arrived at its evaluation about this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly. Lawmakers were penalized for opposing a gas tax increase and working to delay a requirement that certain counties create a stormwater fee. “They can call themselves about conservation, but they’re not. They’re about an agenda of increased taxation,” said Brinkley, R-District 4. While Brinkley and Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, both got the lowest possible grades from the league, some higher scorers weren’t happy with the report, either. Sen. Ron Young, who earned a 71 percent score from the group, said he thinks the organization dropped the ball this year. Young’s scores suffered because he didn’t vote on the offshore wind bill and supported the agricultural certainty bill, which gives farmers who voluntarily follow certain practices a 10-year exemption from new state and local environmental regulations. Young said he is upset that the league didn’t back his legislation to create low-interest loans for building green homes. “I would downgrade them,” said Young, D-District 3. “I think they had their heads in the sand.” Young and Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, tied for the delegation’s highest score, and the grades take a pretty sharp downturn from there. Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, received a 50-percent score; Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, got 43 percent; Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, got a 25 percent; and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, got a 20 percent.

Choosing Young’s adventure [and] Legislators get low marks from group [and] Center sale opponents organize rally

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/19/2013
A state environmental scorecard for 2013 was released this week, and a couple of Frederick County legislators scored zeros. Sen. David Brinkley was one of the two local lawmakers who failed to win (any) points with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2013. But Brinkley says it is important to consider how the league arrived at its evaluation about this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly. Lawmakers were penalized for opposing a gas tax increase and working to delay a requirement that certain counties create a stormwater fee. “They can call themselves about conservation, but they’re not. They’re about an agenda of increased taxation,” said Brinkley, R-District 4. While Brinkley and Delegate Kelly Schulz, R-District 4A, both got the lowest possible grades from the league, some higher scorers weren’t happy with the report, either. Sen. Ron Young, who earned a 71 percent score from the group, said he thinks the organization dropped the ball this year. Young’s scores suffered because he didn’t vote on the offshore wind bill and supported the agricultural certainty bill, which gives farmers who voluntarily follow certain practices a 10-year exemption from new state and local environmental regulations. Young said he is upset that the league didn’t back his legislation to create low-interest loans for building green homes. “I would downgrade them,” said Young, D-District 3. “I think they had their heads in the sand.” Young and Delegate Galen Clagett, D-District 3A, tied for the delegation’s highest score, and the grades take a pretty sharp downturn from there. Delegate Donald Elliott, R-District 4B, received a 50-percent score; Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, got 43 percent; Delegate Michael Hough, R-District 3B, got a 25 percent; and Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, got a 20 percent.

Supports the boycotts

Frederick News Post
Bob Lewis
07/17/2013
In a recent editorial, “Calls for local boycotts ill-advised,” attempts to apply economic pressure to the Frederick County Commissioners and their supporters are criticized. The editorial implies that voters should not be upset because these commissioners were “candid about their political philosophy and how they planned to proceed if elected.” They were not candid about how they would proceed. Had they been open about their plans to privatize the county workforce, sell Montevue, cut county support to Head Start and attempt to loosen ethics rules, they would have never been elected. The editorial states that some boycotts would be reasonable such as those conducted during the civil rights campaigns in the 1960s — “When the political establishment and powers that be are resolutely unresponsive to reasonable change, a boycott may be justified and necessary.” I believe that is exactly the situation we face in Frederick County. On issue after issue citizens have organized, demonstrated, and given solid, reasoned presentations, and they have been ignored, disrespected and abused by this board.

With privatization's end comes a time to reflect, explain

Frederick News Post
07/14/2013
Saying there's nothing more to privatize, Commissioners President Blaine Young called it a day in a optimistically toned July 8 letter to county staff, lauding a streamlined, much-less-costly, much-less-populated county government. The controversial and unfortunate decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation and Montevue Assisted Living "will be the last major change this Board will make," he wrote. Since 2009, the county workforce has been reduced by 25 percent -- one in every four staff -- through "layoffs, eliminating vacant positions and consolidating County divisions and departments and privatizing services." "I realize all the changes have been difficult," Young wrote. That doesn't really capture it.