Trustees forgive nursing, rehab center loan

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Trustees have forgiven the repayment of an outstanding loan following a request from a financially troubled local skilled nursing facility.

About $130,000 remained on a loan the village gave to the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation over 20 years ago. Officials have previously waived remaining interest and deferred principal payments for several years.

Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) of Bennington plans to take over the 82-bed skilled nursing facility on Danforth Street. State health care regulators gave contingent approval this spring.

The healthcare system's board of directors will soon vote to finalize the plan, according to Gregory M. Laurin, president of the center's board of directors. Laurin made the request of trustees at their monthly meeting Tuesday. He also requested officials of the village, to whom the facility is a debtor, sign-off on an acknowledgement that SVHC would be a managing partner in the new partnership.

According to Laurin, the residential health care facility has debt totaling $1.6 million. He expressed the deal would be more likely to go through if the total debt was even a little less.

"If the application doesn't go through, we shut the doors in the next few months or sell it to someone to be a privately run, for-profit facility," Laurin said. "That's not something any of us want to do."

The facility was known as the Hoosick Falls Health Center when it received a $400,000 loan from the village in 1995 for an expansion and improvement project. Those funds were from community development block grant money. Trustees agreed in 2013 to defer that year's scheduled payment and to waive remaining interest payments and refinance the remaining $135,000 over 10 years. Last summer, the center was granted a five-year waiver of payments.

Laurin said the center's administration approached the healthcare system because of investments it had made in the region.

SVHC is the parent company of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. It runs a 130-bed skilled nursing facility and a full-service cancer center on the hospital's Bennington campus as well as satellite offices. One of those is Twin Rivers Medical, PC, the former Hoosick Family Health Center.

In January, filed a "certificate of need" with the state Public Health and Health Planning Council. The facility would be run by a new entity, SVHC-Hoosick Falls, LLC. The healthcare system would be a "passive parent." According to the executive summary, the partnership would offer better economies of scale and shared resources, training and programs.

Trustee Kevin O'Malley said that he supports the facility, but expressed concern because the money would go into the economic development revolving fund. That pays for initiatives like the new economic development coordinator, he noted. O'Malley said the facility should repay $50,000.

Trustee Brian Bushner said the facility's closing could cause a ripple effect with a "cascade of problems," including loss of jobs and create an abandoned property. He said he was more comfortable forgiving the loan because it was originally grant money, not directly from taxes.

Trustee Ben Patton made the motion to waive future payments. It was seconded by Karen Sprague, who stated the facility is "something we don't want to lose."

O'Malley was the sole vote against it.

"I think some of the money should be coming back," he said.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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