DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners has set a meeting to gather public input on proposals received for the purchase of the county’s home health operations.
The meeting will get under way on July 30, at 6 p.m., in the commissioner’s meeting room at the county government center in Dobson.
While the proposals have been a tightly held secret until this point, they become public information today and are available for public inspection in the county manager’s office at the Dobson government center.
Following a request for proposals (RFP) issued to companies interested in taking over the home health operations in the county, six offers ranging from $2.5 million to $550,000 are on the table, according to County Manager Chris Knopf.
The offers are as follows:
• United Home Care, Inc. — $2,500,000
• Gentiva — $2,350,000
• Care South Inc. — $1,200.000
• Well Care Inc. — $650,000
• Medical Services of America Inc. — $600,000
• LCH Inc — $550,000
The disparity in the offer prices totals $1.8 million, with an average offer price of $1,183,333 and a median offer price of $925,000, according to until-now confidential documents related to the sale.
County Attorney Ed Woltz said Thursday the individual company’s presence in the area, and how expanding into Surry County could impact their operations, could have played into the disparity in the offers.
“A lot of that is a factor of how we geographically fit into the company’s overall plans,” he said. “Some already have operations across North Carolina and the South, and if they already have a presence in the region we could be of value to them due to our location, or we could fill a gap in service for their company.”
He said that because of the RFP process, most of the prices are based on similar services.
“There are slightly different standards they all have, but basically the bids are for the purchase of our ongoing home health operations and running it,” he said. “The major difference is the money they’re willing to pay for it.”
Knopf said the companies are making an offer for the home health care accounts that have been serviced by the county, noting the county is privatizing the services after years of running in the red.
He indicated that with private companies available and willing to take over the health care accounts it only makes fiscal sense to privatize the operations.
“Back in the 1960s, when the county started providing those services, there wasn’t a private provider in the county,” he said. “Now there are many private sector providers and the county was losing money. It simply wasn’t paying for itself.”
Over the past several years, providing the services in the county cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of this past March, the services had run up a deficit of more than $650,000, a 15.8 percent increase over the 2010-2011 deficit of $550,000.
The Surry County Board of Commissioners voted earlier this year to cease providing the services, citing financial losses.
The board subsequently approved a severance package for the affected workers that consisted of educational opportunities and two weeks’ salary.
Woltz said that the process of privatizing home health care in the county will take time, noting that “it’s not as easy” as simply picking the company offering the most money.
“What we do is solicit bids, which we have done,” he said. “At some point our consultant will make a recommendation to the board about which one is preferable.”
Following the recommendation, the county will draft an asset purchase agreement that will be negotiated between the county and the company.
Upon finalization of the draft, the Board of Commissioners will post notices of a public hearing and consider the purchase at their next regular meeting.
“The board can either vote or not vote at that time,” he said, noting the the commissioners have the discretion to pick one or none of the proposals.
Woltz called the sale of home health services in the county “a bargaining process,” and noted that this initial offer is simply the starting point.
“(The prices are not) necessarily what we’re going to end up with,” he said, adding that the county will likely place the money from the sale into a restricted account in the event that any problems arise.
Knopf said there is no concrete deadline for the process.
“Right now, we have no idea on the time frame before implementation,” he said. “We don’t know what kind of comments we’re going to receive from the public and we’re going to proceed based on the offers on the table and what kind of comments come from this public meeting.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.