Letters to the Editor
Dear Merrill Community,
What is one of the fondest memories Merrill’s students have of their first grade school year? It’s the trip to the Brickyard School that every first grade student in Merrill experiences in the fall! It’s the rare occasion when they experience history first hand. This first hand experience is what makes the lasting impression on our students.
Each of you will have the opportunity to play a part in keeping this experience alive for all our Merrill students. The Brickyard School is 111 years old this year and is in need of a new roof, soffits and fascia. The Education Committee of the Merrill Historical Society is introducing a “Raise the Roof at Brickyard” campaign at the Lincoln County Fair to fund these repairs. Please consider a donation of $2 per shingle or $30 per flat of shingles. Stop by the Brickyard School when visiting the Lincoln County Fair at the Merrill Festival Grounds this week and see for yourself the rich historical site we have worth preserving.
First Grade Teacher
Why look at selling Pine Crest Nursing Home now? It came as a surprise when some of the members of the County Board asked the Administrative & Legislative Committee to explore private interest in selling Pine Crest. PC is currently in the final planning phase of a $9.5 million remodeling/renovation project heading for an up or down vote by the County Board in September. In August 2015 the County Board authorized PC to prepare detailed plans for a remodeling/renovation project. By a vote of 19 to 3 the Resolution passed with Supervisors VanderSanden, Loka and Zeitz voting no. Recently two commercial real estate brokers contacted the County Administrative Coordinators Office seeking to list the PC buildings for sale. There has never been any formal discussions about selling the PC buildings. When the A&L Committee received presentations from the brokers, we found there are no serious buyers, only brokers looking for a listing and seeking a fee for service.
Where are we at with the PC remodeling/renovation project? In accordance with authorization by the County Board, the PC Trustees have spent about $500,000 preparing detailed construction plans and will soon receive final bids with intent to begin construction this fall. A minimum 75% vote to approve borrowing/bonding will be required at the September County Board meeting. The PC Trustees have spent years reviewing all options, provided numerous opportunities for public input, reported numerous times to the County Board and Committees before making final detailed recommendations.
How will the borrowing be repaid? The Medical Assistance formula allows for 100% of the repayment to be included in MA billing for services. There will be NO County property tax levy for this major project, NONE. Pine Crest project plans call for adding a new 20-bed Rehabilitation/Medicare wing with all private rooms, adding a new state of the art Memory Care wing, along with numerous greatly needed mechanical upgrades at no cost to our property tax. These are all essential upgrades and renovations.
What happens if borrowing is not approved? This truly is a one time opportunity! First, the $1/2 million in design work would now be paid by County Property Tax not Medical Assistance, all bids expire, upgrades and improvements placed on hold, hopes of residents and staff dashed. Most important, the buildings simply cannot continue to function in the modern health care world without upgrades and improvements. No business can succeed without continued investment, especially the fast changing health care industry. PC has top flight programs and staff that can function and preform at an excellent level, but our building is in great need.
Why would anyone turn down such a great deal? Friends of Pine Crest, the County Board needs to hear from you, especially residents of the Gleason and Pine River districts.
Pine Crest Trustee
As president of our local St. Vincent de Paul, a non-profit charitable organization that serves the poor in the Merrill area, I am charged with the responsibility of finding out the particulars of the recent sale of our Community Care Center (former Lincoln County Bank on West Main Street). Looking at the below listed numbers raised what I believe are some very obvious and concerning questions.
$5,000 (February 2015)- The amount Daniel Kolehouse offered us for the building which he stated he was going to demolish. We did not accept the offer.
$1 (Fall 2015)- City Administrator Dave Johnson told me at a United Way meeting, “you will be lucky to get a dollar for the building,” indicating the city was not interested in buying it.
$25,000 (January 2016)- St. Vincent de Paul sold the property to ABC Management out of Wausau.
$70,000 (June 2016)- The price Renee Kolehouse (Daniel’s wife) paid ABC Management to purchase the property.
$140,000 (July 12, 2016)- Purchase price approved by City of Merrill Common Council.
Prior to selling our property at 401 W. Main St. I inquired whether or not the Merrill Housing Authority was interested. I was told quite emphatically they were not.
Granted, math was never my strong point, but to me these numbers just don’t add up. What’s the deal?
Denis N. McCarthy