Montevue Matters Now…More Than Ever

In 1828, farmers Elias and Catherine Brunner signed their names to a document that has survived the tests of history and ensured their place in Frederick County’s historical record.

Selling acreage to the county for the construction of a new almshouse, the Brunners added a covenant establishing that the land was to be used, “For the Benefit of the Poor of said County, and to and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.”

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Since that time, the Brunner property has been used to meet public needs and services provided by Frederick County, including the provision of services to those senior citizens who while frail, do not need the care of a nursing home, and with little or no income, cannot afford private assisted living facilities.

In 1871, when a new almshouse and hospital was built on the property, it was named Montevue. Buildings and services evolved over the next 143 years, but Frederick County’s commitment to the Brunner’s vision did not — until Blaine Young came into office four years ago.

Now “Montevue” is a rallying cry for those who would not only protect seniors in jeopardy, but for citizens who are embarrassed and angered by a Board of County Commissioners who have consistently shown disrespect for those with views other than their own.

When several hundred citizens attended a public hearing on June 25, 2013, on the sale of Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center and the closure of Montevue Assisted Living as an option for our neediest seniors, county commissioners chewed peanuts, focused on their cell phones and ignored all calls for examining other options and giving the brand new Citizens/Montevue complex and its Board of Trustees an opportunity to realize its potential.

Within two months, the die had been cast: only costly legal intervention would slow the process and give voters the chance to stop the sale through a change in leadership in this year’s November election.

The last year has been a lesson in civic response to power gone awry. The Citizens and Montevue issue has brought disparate community factions together over several key issues:

• The tremendous financial losses county taxpayers will face through the asset purchase, lease and proposed sale agreements constructed by the county with Aurora Holdings and subsequent bond obligations;

• The Young Board’s complete failure to ask about, question or give any public concern to the health and well-being of the frailest and poorest seniors being affected by the loss of available beds at Montevue;

• The failure of the county to come up with any plan for senior services with the “savings” they said they would have through the sale;

• The county’s disregard for the original Brunner property deed covenant restricting use of the property, “for the use of the poor…” and their willingness to give the property away to a private enterprise;

• The Young Board’s dismissal of the Citizen/Montevue Board of Trustees and their lack of transparency in their dealings with Aurora Holdings;

• The failure of the BoCC and their agent to even contact the references provided by Aurora in their purchase proposal; and ultimately, the lack of civility shown toward the citizens – many of them senior citizens themselves – at every step in the process since Mr. Young’s announcement that, “I’m in charge at Citizens/ Montevue.”

blainemeeting250wSince that time, Mr. Young has created new “agreements” with Aurora Health Management without any public process, review or public votes taken by the Board of County Commissioners. Stymied by litigation in his march to privatization while pursuing election as the County’s first executive, Mr. Young created separate “lease” and “asset purchase” agreements that were signed on May 1, 2014.

He then removed the 323 employees of the two facilities from the county payroll on the same day with only a vague understanding between Mr. Young and Aurora that the employees would be hired by Aurora. Employees learned of the drastic change when they arrived for work on May 1. Without any clear explanation of employee benefits, they were expected to make an on-the-spot decision between employment by Aurora or unemployment.

Of utmost importance is the future of the elderly residents of Montevue Assisted Living.

In the fall of 2012, when Mr. Young first announced his goal of selling Citizens and closing Montevue, he had no plan at all in place for caring for Montevue’s residents. It was public pressure that led to the creation of a “continuing care agreement” with Aurora that, according to Mr. Young’s testimony before the State Board of Public Works in July of last year, “they [the purchaser] had to take care of everyone at Montevue, that they could not transfer them.”

It is interesting to note that Aurora submitted their application to DHMH for a license to operate Montevue under a new name, “Odyssey Assisted Living at Montevue, LLC.” That application cites several criteria that will “cause permanent discharge” of residents, including medical issues of subsidized residents that the nursing staff of Montevue had easily dealt with for many years. In addition, the county has refused to fill the empty subsidized beds at Montevue since last summer, withholding this much-needed resource for individuals and families who have nowhere else to turn.

citizensrehabWhile these beds remain empty, County taxpayers continue to pay Aurora for them – even though Aurora can “double dip” and fill the beds with paying customers! Divide the amount being paid to Aurora through the continuing care agreement by the number of subsidized residents and you’ll find we’re paying roughly $90,000 per year for each resident, an amount far above the cost of private assisted living and several times the amount paid per resident when Montevue was filled and functioning under county control.

When Blaine Young appeared before the Board of Public Works in 2013, he used the term “delicate situation” numerous times to describe the public outcry over the proposed sale, “because you are dealing with seniors, you are dealing with people being taken care of in Montevue and Citizens.”

Yet days after the recent removal of employees and the announcement that Aurora had taken control of the facilities – despite the court ruling – Mr. Young sent out a mailer to Republican voters deriding President Obama and the Affordable Care Act on one side and proclaiming that he (Mr. Young) “got the government out of health care” on the other. So much for delicate. This consistent attack shows Mr. Young’s real reasons for pushing for the closing of Montevue as Frederick County has known it for nearly 200 years, and his slap in the face of Maryland’s judicial system.

It’s hard to believe that the four members of the Young Board now running for public office thought their quick and dirty sales plan for Citizens and Montevue would still be haunting them just weeks before the coming election. But haunt them it has, and the pressure will be on right through election day as Frederick County voters go to the polls.

They’ll be remembering the anguish and courage of the late Lawrence Watson, the 95-year-old Montevue resident who donned coat and tie to go before the county commissioners on June 25, 2013 and say, “I ask you not to sell my home, but to give my home a chance to prove itself. To believe in the folks that run Montevue and give them a chance to prove it is a diamond in the rough.”

Blaine Young and his cohorts Billie Shreve, Kirby Delauter and Paul Smith did not hear Mr. Watson. Now the voters have their turn.