AP NEWS

Sauk County to study cost to build out Reedsburg health campus

January 12, 2019

Sauk County officials want to know the potential cost of expanding a government health campus in the city of Reedsburg.

The Sauk County Health Care Center Board of Trustees decided Thursday to request proposals from consultants to study what it would cost to build and operate a new memory care facility or assisted living facility.

The request also would ask for proposals to review operations at the existing health care center, an 82-bed nursing home run by the county, and determine whether additional efficiencies are possible.

The county has been examining how to best use undeveloped property it owns adjacent to the Reedsburg nursing home. When the county constructed that facility in 2009, the idea was to someday use the nearby land for a more encompassing health campus.

In December, a consultant contracted to study how the property might best be used identified senior housing, including memory care, as the most pressing needs in coming years.

The contractor, Wipfli LLP, said the county does not need a new facility to serve other populations, such as those with mental health, drug or alcohol problems.

However, the consultant did not look at the fiscal impact of adding senior housing to the Reedsburg-based health campus.

County board member Bryant Hazard of Baraboo, a member of the nursing home’s oversight panel, said requesting bids to conduct a financial feasibility study doesn’t lock the county into any new spending or action.

“It’s up to the county board to make any decisions in the end,” he said.

The county will ask companies to present three separate proposals, including each of the following areas of study: the cost of a new assisted living facility, the cost of a new memory care facility, and possible efficiencies at the existing nursing home.

Health Care Center Administrator Jennifer Vosen said the nursing home’s oversight panel will decide whether it wants to move forward with one, two or all three options. That recommendation will then go before the full county board for final consideration.

The existing nursing home — which mainly serves residents from the Reedsburg area — receives about $1.4 million in annual support from county taxpayers.

County officials say it also serves as a safety net, admitting patients with high-care needs that might not be admitted to privately run facilities.

Some board members want the county to find a way to make the facility tax neutral before moving forward with any new construction. Others say revenue from new assisted living units would help offset the nursing home’s tax burden.