Amid discussions of improving transparency, a McHenry County Board committee has been tasked with evaluating all possible options for the future of the Valley Hi nursing home.
Several board members took issue with a request for qualifications -- sent out in August by staff without the board's knowledge -- for the potential lease of the county-run facility. Elected officials said the subject matter is of great public interest and should've been more thoroughly discussed.
Administrator Peter Austin said staff was merely starting to gather information about alternatives for the nursing home, which has a roughly $40 million surplus. However, board member Craig Wilcox of McHenry said the request only explores a leasing option and would fail to provide a complete picture.
The board on Tuesday voted to rescind the request for qualifications, nullifying any submissions the county may have received. The move will "wipe the deck clean" so as not to influence any decisions pertaining to Valley Hi, said Jeff Thorsen of Crystal Lake.
Additionally, board members agreed all discussions regarding the future of Valley Hi would be handled by the public health and community services committee, which is led by Chuck Wheeler of McHenry.
With the health care industry changing rapidly, it's the county's responsibility to evaluate and create a plan for the taxpayer-funded facility, Chairman Jack Franks said.
"There are no sacred cows. Everything is open to scrutiny," he said. "I'm not proposing a lease or sale. I just want to know whether we should be doing anything different. Education is key here."
Many county board members, such as Paula Yensen of Lake in the Hills, had no interest in privatizing or leasing the nursing home, which they said provides a high-quality service to residents. Still, most were open to exploring ways to improve efficiencies.
"I don't come with any preconceived notions that we have a problem," Wheeler said. "But I'm willing, as (committee) chairman, to investigate and to hold public hearings about Valley Hi."
The committee is expected to work closely with Valley Hi leaders and its operating board to conduct a formal analysis of the nursing home. Any recommendations would have to be discussed and approved by the full county board.
"As long as we're having a discussion on the future of Valley Hi, that's the most important issue," Franks said.