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Board supports Sunnyside downsize, closes meeting for employee investigation

The number of beds at Sunnyside Health Care Center will go from 88 to 44, if a de-licensure request is approved by the state. Carlton County Commissioners approved a letter of support for the Cloquet nursing home at their Tuesday morning meeting,...

The number of beds at Sunnyside Health Care Center will go from 88 to 44, if a de-licensure request is approved by the state.

Carlton County Commissioners approved a letter of support for the Cloquet nursing home at their Tuesday morning meeting, after hearing that the beds had been “in layaway status” for the past two years in order to address occupancy concerns and financial losses relative to Sunnyside, which is part of Community Memorial Hospital.

Carlton County Director of Health and Human Services Dave Lee explained to the board that CMH needs support from the county before the state will approve the reduction.

“Is it due to all the assisted living [facilities]?” Board Chair Marv Bodie asked.

Lee said yes, and noted the state is actively pushing for seniors to utilize other forms of senior housing instead of nursing homes, which generally provide a higher level of skilled nursing, but also cost more than other alternatives.

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Carlton County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert weighed in, noting there had been a couple complaints from citizens that the hospital closed the first floor of the nursing home rather than the second, making access to the outdoors more difficult for the mostly elderly residents.

“But that’s a hospital issue - internally - not ours,” he added.

In its communication with the county, CMH representatives noted the hospital will receive a rate readjustment of $2,080 per bed closed if approved. CMH also needs the support of the Area Agency on Aging to get Minnesota Department of Human Services approval.

Tuesday’s Carlton County Board of Commissioners meeting was later closed to consider several different agenda items, including labor negotiations and an ongoing employee investigation, among other things.

County Coordinator Dennis Genereau said in an email following the meeting that he could not reveal any further information on the employee investigation, citing Minnesota Statute 13.43, which deals with public and private personnel information. After the investigation is complete, according to the same statute, the county can release the final disposition of any disciplinary action together with the specific reasons for the action and data documenting the basis of the action, excluding data that would identify confidential sources who are employees of the public body.

Genereau said he didn’t have a time frame for reaching disposition on the investigation, adding “we intend to be as thorough and timely as possible.”

In other matters Tuesday, the board took the following actions:

  • Approved a land sale for approximately $1.6 million in county-owned, tax-forfeited lands tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15. Land commissioner Greg Bernu said most of the parcels are landlocked, and most valuable to adjacent landowners. Timber values will be included in the assessments of the properties, Bernu added.

  • Approved the replacement of a bridge in Kettle River, at a bid cost of $248,000 (significantly under the county’s estimated cost of $334,000). The state will cover $234,000 of the cost, with the county only expected to cover approximately $14,000, which is the cost to remove the existing structure. The bridge is expected to be complete by Nov. 7, County Engineer Mike Tardy told the board, although he said a final bituminous overlay might have to be delayed until the following spring, depending on the weather.

“The school buses will have to use another route until November,” Tardy said, adding that the current weight limit on the bridge is only 3 tons, or “just over a pickup load.”

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  • Approved a wet bar permit for TJs in Mahtowa.

  • Issued a letter of support for the Big Lake Trail being constructed by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The letter is needed because the Band wants to apply for grant funds through the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. Tardy explained the county would “not be on the hook” for any funding, just its support.

The resolution noted that the Band is “committed to ensuring its paved trail system provides connectors to destinations such as parks, schools, businesses, and other regionally significant facilities for all community members and visitors.”
Bernu noted that he sits on the parks and trails commission for District 1, and explained the trails may not “pass muster” with the district.

“It’s a very competitive process, and I believe the trails have to meet certain requirements,” Bernu said, adding that it couldn’t hurt to apply, and also adding that during the last round of funding only two of 39 trails funded were outstate (as opposed to metro-area) trails.

“There should be a connection to a regional trail,” Bernu said.

Bodie asked if Cloquet and Scanlon might ask for the same support, since their proposed trails will eventually hook up with the regional Willard Munger trail.

In response, Tardy said “yes,” but added that the ultimate plan is to have all the local trails connect to each other and, therefore, to the Willard Munger trail.

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