Nathaniel Witherell – our next fiscal disaster

We are not amused

We are not amused

Balzac penned the following and it’d be too bad if it were buried in the comments section:

Is anyone else puzzled by the Town committing another $2.4 million to the previous $3.6 million and $22.8 million to rebuild the Witherell nursing home?
This project alone consumes 10% of our Town debt limit for 20 years. There are 169 towns in Connecticut. 168 of them have concluded that owning a nursing home is not a municipal government function. On the other hand, Greenwich has concluded by a 90%-10% vote at the RTM that it is an absolute necessity. Meanwhile management projects to require $20 million in town subsidy over the next 20 years, and more if the private fundraising falls short of their target of $9.3 million (amount raised in the last 2 years: $250,000). Oh, and if management’s projection of Medicaid reimbursements is off by 1% annually over the next 27 years, that will cost the town another $50 million. Anybody want to bet on that? 2% is $100 million. You will pay this bill. The real beneficiaries of the town subsidy ($1 million this year, $2 million next)  are the Teamsters, thru the above-market subsidy to their wages (78% above prevailing).[emphasis added] The payroll above prevailing is $1.8 million annually. Is there another Teamsters-represented nursing home in the state? On the planet? Apparently the taxpayer must shoulder this forever, and be happy to do so.

This lack of vision will end badly, in a decade or so, when the losses become too large, the burden finally too much for the taxpayer (who cares about him, the poor shlub?). Then and only then, will the Town make the decision that 168 Towns came to long ago……

Selectman Drew Marzullo’s on the wrong side of this issue, but perhaps a smart boxing about his ears will bring him around.

24 Comments

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24 responses to “Nathaniel Witherell – our next fiscal disaster

  1. Cos Cobber

    The town should not be in the nursing home business. Balzac is spot on.

  2. Demmerkrat Patriot

    This project alone consumes 10% of our Town debt limit for 20 years.

    The debt limit issue is somewhat of a red herring. The taxpayer is not paying the debt (as Balzac stated,) but the BET has chosen to include this debt in the “debt ceiling” calculation. I’m not sure why … other than the Town is issuing the debt. Repayment will be from the state … and that is a cause for concern as well.

    While I agree that the Town should not be in the business, our elected representation wants to keep Nathaniel Witherell a town department. Maybe that is where the registered voters should focus their attention. Is our elected representation (the RTM) truly representing their constituents on this issue?

    • Anytime I see “reimbursement from the state” and “Greenwich” in the same sentence, I worry, as you indeed note. Seen any state educational funds in Greenwich recently? But I also agree with you regarding our representatives to the RTM – they’re not paying attention, to this, or to most fiscal matters. But they do complain about taxes rising – cognitive dissonance.

  3. The Ghost of the FAR Czar

    DP – repayment of the debt is not from the state but from operating cash flow at the facility. The state only kicks in medicaid reimbursement for medicaid patients. If those reimbursement rates change (and they certainly will), the burden for the debt will fall back on the town and its tax payers as operating cash flow at the facility declines. That is why the BET counts it.

    • Demmerkrat Patriot

      Franklin? Is that you?

      Anyway … agreed. The success of the NW project is contingent on the reimbursements from the state. And, as CF mentioned, that is a questionable assumption. I do credit our state reps and senator for keeping the state in line on reimbursements for NW so far.

      CF: Greenwich doesn’t get a lot of funding for education from the state. As a broker, is that such a bad thing? If the Hartford idiots can short us on Medicaid, I shudder to imagine what they would do to our school budgets. At least Greenwich is safe from the Fickle Finger of Fools.

  4. Georgie

    CF…face it your guy Marzullo has advocated for EVERY spending issue in this Town—the nursing home is just one. You, the Liberterian, are a quick sucker for a nice smile and easy going manner as you (and your children’s) pocketbook is pillaged.

    It always fascinates me how people complain about the elected idiots at Town Hall, General Assembly, Congress…..but its never their own official—nah, its the other guys’ official.

    • I’ll admit to a bit of hypocrisy here in endorsing Drew when I know he’s running for the limited role of second selectman – if I thought he’d be our next first selectman, I’d look more closely at his positions and might well have to vote against him.But in his present role I think he does an excellent job. And of course, you’re right: he’s a really nice guy so it’s hard to say hard truths about his Democrat allegiances and policies.

  5. Georgie

    BTW, if you were to ask the average Greenwich taxpayer what would be the top 10 things their government should be providing—i doubt you would find many saying 1) a nursing home, 2) a museum, and 3) a golf course…..and yet Greenwich does all three costing MILLIONS every year in Town subsidy.

    And, this as a infrastructure is substandard. Damn the sewers, bridges, school buildings (except our $40million music hall), parks and such.

    • CatoRenasci

      Just try to cut any of them and you will find out that they have strong constituencies that will have your head. See my post below.

  6. Anonymous

    From what I know Nathaniel Witherell might be deed restricted in the town, such that they cannot sell and/or split up the property. I always thought that what would be the most prudent idea is to sell the property (beautiful desirable chunk of land on Parsonage Road in the Golden Triangle), and use the proceeds to build an efficient modern new facility on King Street….the town would probably have enough money left over for funding maintenance and upkeep. But it does not appear to be possible.

  7. Reader

    If it is deed restricted, we should sell it to a private operator who will probably run it more efficiently and effectively. We need to stop paying public employees who are screwing the rest of us.

    • Aw, I have lots of friends who are town employees and residents and I don’t consider them bad people or even folks ripping us off. That said , yes, we should privatize most town services, and especially the nursing home.

  8. CatoRenasci

    You had to be at the RTM Meeting Monday night when this travesty was passed. Other than Bill Drake’s Budget Overview Committee report, no one really spoke against it. There were only 25 votes against it – 15 courageous “nos” and 10 abstentions.

    No one wants to be against the poor seniors…. I can hear Kreisler playing “Hearts and Flowers” with full schmalz!

    When there was a serious attempt to privatize NW a number of years ago, the heartstrings were heavily tugged and the RTM voted to keep in Town owned.

    NW is like MISA and the school budget generally – every time anyone in the BET or the RTM tries to raise the issue, even in the relatively fiscally conservative Finance and Budget Overview Committees, the supporters come out in droves and the voices of fiscal sanity have calumny heaped upon them until they retreat again, chastened to go and sin no more (well, for a while, anyway….)

    Every spending project has a heartfelt constituency, fiscal responsibility, or the notion that we might have to choose between desirable projects or services because we can’t do everything is an orphan with no friends shivering in an alleyway.

    • Georgie

      Cato—-btw, I actually agree with FF on something—and that is the RTM has become worthless and inconsequential…..just look at the same folks running the place decade after decade doing the same ol’ thing. The Greenwich Taxpayer is totally under served with this group of yahoos.

  9. Riverside Dog Walker

    I read the article in Greenwich Time yesterday and was baffled at why 90% of RTM thought we should have a nursing home. Balzac is spot on, but alas, what can one do? Join RTM? I’ve heard people who were on RTM decide a better use of their time was to stay home and watch CSI.

    As far as town employees, I wish they would come pick up the leaves on my street. I realize this is another bit of town hypocracy, since those of us with less than half an acre (?) get this benefit while if I am correct, people with larger lots have to take care of their own leaves. I justify this by imagining that the town employees who spend all day doing nothing at the Eastern Civic Center might actually be called upon to do some work in the fall.

  10. you must be crazy

    workers not ripping us off…what about sleeping highway worker in truck, 150 overpaid cops, yous crazzzzy

  11. dumpsta

    gwich you going down fast

  12. Georgie

    Cato, our elected leaders, such as Drew are not gaining voters by TAKING AWAY any project, service, or benefit in order to to live in a fiscally prudent manner for not only the current taxpayer, but the children to follow.

    Who cares that GDP growth has come to a screaching halt at 1-2%, unemployment at horrible highs……gotta keep spending at the same (or higher!) rate to keep the bennies rolling.

    They (pols) understand the deal—relection depends on being the “nice guy” and advocating for outsized spending in nursing homes, pools, music spaces, wage/benefit concessions to the unions etc who indeed payback and re-elect their nice local official.

    The Greenwich Taxpayer (resident and business alike) doesn’t take to the streets. Not when you have so many options—you just quietly see a migration out of this Town and high spending State.

  13. Chief Scrotum

    Y’all may want to consider the new reality that “town workers” make more than your cherished children, have better benefits, more job security and retire earlier. Perhaps your children should consider these jobs before running off to Teach America or some other silliness.

  14. Anon

    Article on RTM and Nathaniel should have said 90% of RTM belong in Nathaniel Witherall

  15. I too watched the RTM meeting on Monday night from a secure bunker south of latitude 28N, one of 4 viewers on Drew’s Ch 79. Like Cato and others, I too was appalled at the oblivious attitude of our elected Town Meeting Representatives. I have often said that New Hampshire is a great place to receive education for life in New England – and that includes how to conduct a Town Meeting in that quaint form of government. I think you still have a gun check at the door in NH.

    Like many in Town, I have benefited from having NW available to failing family members in need of that type of facility. But an capital budget bump of 10%, and an operating deficit of $1MM this year, $2MM next years, and forever after beholden to the unions at tax-payer expense.

    This is insanity. No one is saying we don’t want NW – just that it needs a different form of ownership and financial responsibility. Is Phil Drake the only sane voice in that body?

    Did no one have the street smarts to question Mike Chambers about why there have been only two IWWA fines, or ask a simple question about MISA – “What about the tax-payer costs for mandatory clean-up of extreme PCB dumping at GHS?”

  16. anonymous

    Uh, isn’t Drew Drew third selectman, not second? Theis ran for second selectman and won, which I think makes him second selectman. Blakely ran for first selectman and lost, which makes him a loser, and Drew Drew ran for Second Selectman but got more votes than Blakely, but fewer than Theis, which makes him third. Right? Does anyone care?

  17. TraderVic

    It is inconceivable there is support for megabucks to pay for, what, 70 seniors with beds? These people never turn over their beds (until the final reaper). At least MISA (also too expensive) is a trophy installation and GHS admits 700 new students PER YEAR.