Just when it seemed the controversy over the new county jail was dying down, complications from mismanagement of the county-owned nursing home have the potential to derail the whole plan.
The project is on a tight budget as it is, voters having turned down county commissioners' first choice, allowing the new law enforcement center to be financed outside the state-mandated levy lid of 50 cents per $100 of valuation.
Now, because the nursing home failed to bill Medicare and Medicaid properly for several months, county taxpayers will lend the home $1 million, at 3.55 percent interest, for five years, an annual payment of $221,000.
The county already advanced Hillcrest $300,000 from the inheritance fund in June, and the Hillcrest Nursing Home Foundation already put $200,000 into a construction project, although it can't put funds into day-to-day operations. [CORRECTION: Although county commissioners discussed advancing Hillcrest $300,000 from the inheritance fund in June, the transfer was not actually made.]
Hillcrest needs to make the last two bond payments -- $165,000 each, one Nov. 1 and one next year -- on a previous 20-year bond for the last major construction project.
For a current $3.5 million project, the home owes $314,606 in June and $596,626 in August.
Hillcrest Nursing Home is a good facility, providing a vital service, and it is regrettable that it has been left in such straits.
In the recent past, Hillcrest officials have been less than forthcoming about finances, despite repeated reminders from this newspaper that as a county-owned home, it is subject to open records and open meeting laws.
County taxpayers are now paying the price for that lack of openness.