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.

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.

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.

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.

Head Start not in a better place

Frederick News Post
Shannon Aleshire
07/28/2013
The editorial in the Sunday, July 14 edition of the Frederick News-Post reflects on the end of the county’s privatization and used the “spin-free” example of the Head Start program. The editorial states that the Head Start program covers the same number of children in a reliable operation without county funding. This is true. The YMCA is federally mandated to serve the same number of children with the funds they receive. The question is: Does our community want to use the number of children served as the singular measure of success for a critically important early childhood program? If we used the same type of thinking for our pubic schools then we would say they served the same number of children as last year, therefore, they must be successful. Instead, I would suggest that the community look a little deeper. The early childhood community applauds the YMCA for stepping up to take on this valuable program. It is unrealistic to think that a program receiving $2 million less in financial support can offer the same programming and produce the same results.

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.”

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.

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.

Not our county’s finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Not our county's finest hour — or five hours

Frederick News Post
Bill Pritchard
07/14/2013
ou might have already picked up on this, but there are some really rude dudes in our county. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed this, but the five-hour public hearing June 25 at Frederick Community College on the county commissioners’ decision to sell Citizens Nursing Home and Montevue Assisted Living was without a doubt one of the worst examples of an out-of-control local crowd I’ve seen in a long time. It started off badly when a man angrily confronted Commissioners President Blaine Young in the lobby and had to be restrained. It continued throughout the meeting with the majority anti-sale crowd forgetting they weren’t at a Frederick Keys’ game, cheering those they agreed with and booing those who had the audacity to speak their mind in favor of the sale. Either FCC or the commissioners knew what was coming -- Kussmaul Theater was generously stocked with cops that night Joining the vocal opposition was Kai Hagen, former commissioner and longtime commissioners’ critic who shouted “liar!” from his seat in response to a statement from Young towards the end of the meeting. This was an unexpected outburst from an otherwise cooler head. They had good reason to be angry, frustrated, furious, and just plain mad as hell.

Delegate says state public works board must OK Citizens sale

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/14/2013
Galen Clagett has not added his voice to the mix at boisterous public meetings on the sale of Frederick County's nursing home and assisted living center. The state delegate and Frederick mayoral candidate has not written any strongly worded letters to the editor. He has not participated in any demonstrations. However, he has been working behind the scenes to raise questions about privatizing Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living. The Frederick County commissioners late last month voted 4-1 to sell the facilities to a private company, Aurora Health Management, for $30 million.

Frederick County commissioners done with large-scale privatization, Young says

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
07/09/2013
The era of wholesale privatization in county government is coming to a close, and the surviving three quarters of the county workforce can breathe a sigh of relief, according to Commissioners President Blaine Young. Young sent a letter to Frederick County employees Monday thanking them for their understanding during the roughly two years that commissioners have looked at shrinking and streamlining government. The recent decision to sell Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living puts the county on course to lose 181 more workers, with facility staff expected to become employees of the buyer, Aurora Health Management. However, the sale of Citizens and Montevue represents the last major privatization effort the current Board of County Commissioners aims to undertake, Young wrote in the letter.

Blaine and Co. bad for Frederick County

Frederick News Post
George Wenschhof
07/07/2013
The 4-1 vote recently to sell the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities and disband their board of trustees, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly. Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business.” Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Co.,” the moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose. Fueled by “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Co. wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation. The resulting action from Blaine and Co. was felt immediately after their election, when they moved to eliminate $2 million in county funding for Head Start, a proven and effective federal program that helps children in need during the critical early years of development. What has followed over the next 2 1/2 years has been a continued move to follow an irresponsible privatization path in governing.

Citizens/Montevue fate sealed before hearing

Frederick News Post
06/30/2013
To no one’s surprise the Frederick County Commissioners wasted little time in selling Citizen Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living Facility following a five-hour public hearing Tuesday evening. It’s now clear the public hearing was nothing more than a “go-through-the-motions” sham and validated claims by opponents that the meeting was being held because of a legal requirement and not because there was any chance the commissioners were interested, much less willing, to change their minds. A standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people crammed into the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College in a last-ditch attempt to stop the commissioners sale of the government-owned nursing home and assisted living center that have served needy local residents for about 140 years. But four of the county commissioners, lead by President Blaine Young, had already made up their minds.