By By JONATHAN CLAYBORNE, News Editor
Six of the seven Beaufort County commissioners do not favor shutting down the county home for the elderly.
At least three commissioners favor changes they say would make the home profitable.
In interviews last week, Commissioners Earl Tetterton; Jay McRoy; Carol Cochran; David Moore; Frank Bonner; and Hood Richardson said they did not want to close the home, as some have feared.
McRoy, Tetterton and Richardson said they wanted to make the home more efficient and cost-effective.
Commissioner Jerry Langley could not be reached for comment.
Tetterton had apparently reversed his position on the home.
Tetterton indicated he changed his mind due to political pressure, saying, "You might as well put a noose around your neck (when taking the opposite viewpoint)."
McRoy said he'd like to make the home "self-supporting" without increasing fees to residents or cutting services.
He declined to discuss specific proposals for making the home self-supporting, saying his ideas would be made public during budget deliberations.
0002000004C0000004914BA,The home is the last county-owned-and-operated facility of its kind in the state. The home remains open through a grandfather clause in a state licensing bill allowing its operation, according to Kathy Smith, director of the home.
For years, the home has lost money, according to reports.
Some of the tax-conscious commissioners have begun grumbling about that.
Members of the county home board -- appointed by the commissioners -- recently bristled when Richardson was quoted as saying the home loses $200,000 to $500,000 a year.
According to Smith, the home may actually lose about $12,000 this fiscal year, which ends June 30. However, she didn't have figures for insurance costs and other items. County Manager Don Davenport said the amount "lost" annually probably doesn't exceed $15,000.
00020000075B0000094B755,Insurance costs are budgeted through the manager's office, along with insurance expenses for all other county buildings, Davenport said.
Last year, the board appropriated $1,193,822 for the home.
The home still has significant capital needs.
The main part of the building was constructed in 1947 and the rear portion of the building was built in 1967, Smith said. Part of the heating system dates to 1967, she related, and some of the system may be as old as the main part of the building.
County officials -- including Smith -- believe it could cost $300,000 to $400,000 to replace the heating and air system. (One cent on the county tax rate equals about $300,000, Richardson pointed out.)
If the commissioners keep the home open, they should maintain it properly, Moore said.
None of the commissioners interviewed about the home believed raising rates would be the only solution to the home's problem.
According to Smith, the rates were raised three years ago.
The monthly rates are:
One way to break even would be "to fill the empty space," Smith said. The home has 45 residents, but has room for 55, she said. Smith believes speculation about the home's future could be driving away potential residents.