If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
“OUT FROM UNDER THIS BURDEN…”
NURSING HOME’S PRESENT OPERATOR OFFERS DEAL TO END COUNTY DEBT
Negotiations are underway in the La Salle County Courthouse this week between commissioners and attorneys for the $2.4 million sale of the Las Palmas Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to its current operator.
The facility is presently under an operations contract with Dallas-based Senior Living Properties (SLP).
Although hesitant to confirm that the sale would go through this week, County Judge Leodoro Martinez III said on Monday that a deal had effectively been struck and awaits the commissioners’ vote, which could come as early as Tuesday.
The sale price, Martinez said, includes the nursing home and its contents as well as the remaining debt on the facility’s construction, which the county is currently paying with its revenues from the center’s lease.
The debt remaining on the facility totals less than $2.5 million, according to information from the county courthouse this week, which means La Salle will effectively walk away from its obligations on the facility by making the sale.
Built immediately prior to the energy industry boom over the Eagle Ford Shale, the nursing home became one of the first enterprises to occupy the newly developed Las Palmas business park between the IH-35 access road and Main Street in Cotulla. Other developments followed, including several highwayside restaurants and a number of multi-story hotels. The La Salle County Larry Griffin Emergency Operations Center is also situated in the business park.
La Salle County signed an agreement with SLP in late 2022, replacing an earlier contract with Touchstone, for the overall operations and management of the nursing home but left open a possibility that the building may be sold. SLP took over operations on December 1.
Touchstone had operated the facility for more than four years. Since leasing out the facility, La Salle County no longer has its own employees in the nursing and rehabilitation center, and staff are hired and paid by the operators. When it opened, staff were hired by the county and received county salaries and benefits.
“There is a clause in the contract, which was drafted by the previous administration and voted on by all of the present county commissioners, allowing an option to buy,” Judge Martinez said. “That option could be exercised in the second year of the two-year agreement, but I moved ahead early and prompted the operator, asking whether he was going to jump on this sale option.”
Negotiated in large part by Attorney Michael Shaunessy, the deal is based on what commissioners describe as fair market value for the building and the business, but does not include the ground under the facility.
“We still own the ground it’s sitting on,” Martinez said on Monday. “La Salle County still collects a fee for that, which is a considerable amount, and that is the beginning of the benefits to the county’s taxpayers.”
Of principal benefit, the judge said, will be the removal of one of the county government’s heaviest debt burdens in its annual budget.
Martinez said the nursing home operated at a loss to the county for years, indicating this week that the cost ran to as much as $1.2 million per year.
“This will be good for Cotulla and all of La Salle County, because it gets us out from under this burden,” the judge said. “Yes, there’s no denying that La Salle County needed a nursing home fifteen years ago, and still needs it today, and the county government made it happen.
“Now that the nursing home is here and has been operational for years, it’s time for us to let it go into private ownership,” the judge said. “It should not be incumbent upon us to operate a facility like this. But it was this county’s duty to its people to make it happen in the first place.”
Since the current operator is the same as the buyer, Martinez said he does not expect any changes in ownership to affect services at the facility or to jeopardize current occupants’ residency.
“Just as the people of La Salle needed this facility to take care of their elderly relatives then, it still does so today, and that won’t change,” the judge said. “I didn’t want to sell the property or the name, but I’ll sell the building.
“This takes a huge liability off the county’s shoulders,” the judge added. “As the actual owners of the building, even with an operator under contract, La Salle County was still effectively responsible for the care of all the people served by that facility. That was a liability that a county government should not have to bear.”
Talks were scheduled to continue behind closed doors at 10 a.m. Tuesday between the county government and agents for SLP, and will culminate in a public vote by the elected officials.