Public hearings, study needed first
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County hopes a line item in the state budget will trigger the sale of Lakeview Manor.
The former county-run nursing home in Weyauwega was closed earlier this year.
Before the facility closed, the county was examining several options with the state for selling or leasing the property.
Among those options, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs discussed using Lakeview Manor as a possible shelter for homeless veterans.
Then on July 14, the state and county learned federal funding had been eliminated for the Veteran Housing and Recovery Programs at King and Union Grove.
The WDVA immediately withdrew its offer to lease the county’s facility.
On Aug. 16, the federal DVA notified the WDVA of a one-year grant extension to continue operations.
The state Department of Corrections has also expressed interest in purchasing Lakeview Manor to house and care for geriatric prisoners.
Waupaca County Chairman Dick Koeppen said the recently enacted state budget includes funding for the DOC to acquire nursing homes for elderly inmates.
“At this point, all options are still open,” Koeppen said.
State Rep. Kevin Petersen told the Waupaca County Post he authored an amendment to set aside $1 million in the 2017-19 budget to purchase and renovate Lakeview Manor Nursing Home to become an assisted living facility for geriatric state prisoners.
Petersen has been working on making Lakeview available to the Department of Corrections for geriatric prisoners for more than a decade.
In a March 2007 letter to Petersen, Rep. Joan Ballweg and Sen. Luther Olsen, the DOC noted it is conducting a study and meeting with officials at Lakeview Manor.
Among the concerns raised in the letter are “the level of community acceptance of housing offenders in a nursing facility outside of a prison, particularly a facility that also houses non-offender patients.”
Petersen said the DOC’s purchase of Lakeview Manor saves money for both the state and the county.
It would cost the state more than $40 million to build a prison specifically for the 1,100 elderly and infirm inmates.
Selling Lakeview Manor would also eliminate Waupaca County’s future maintenance costs on an empty building.
State Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, is chairman of the State Assembly’s Corrections Committee. He introduced a budget amendment that provides more funding for geriatric facilities, but does not specifically name Lakeview Manor.
Schraa’s amendment, which was part of the 2017-19 state budget signed Sept. 21 by Gov. Scott Walker, provides $1 million for an assisted living facility to provide 150 beds.
In his motion for the budget amendment, Schraa estimated a renovated nursing home could save the state more than $13.4 million than it is currently spending on the same number of geriatric inmates.
Overall, the Joint Finance Committee approved spending a total of $7 million to purchase nursing homes in Wisconsin and convert them to low-level prisons.
Petersen said Lakeview Manor’s name was removed from the amendment because there must be a study and local public hearings before the project can approved.
The state must determine if the project is cost effective and whether local residents support it.
“Maybe constituents in Weyauwega don’t want it,” Petersen said. “Then the entire program goes away.”
Petersen said Wisconsin may purchase facilities in other counties, as well.
Heidi Dombrowski, the county finance director, said, “The entire Lakeview Manor facility building is in excess of 45,000 square feet. The land immediately surrounding Lakeview Manor is approximately seven acres in size and is part of a much larger parcel of real estate owned by the county.”
When asked the market value of Lakeview Manor, Dombrowski said the county has yet to have the property appraised.
“No final price has been determined yet,” according to County Supervisor Gary Barrington, who chaired the committee that had oversight of Lakeview Manor.
Although the county has two possible options with the state, Barrington said the future of Lakeview Manor is “still hanging.”
“We need to turn it over to a professional to get it (Lakeview Manor) on the market,” Barrington said.