Valley Hi Operating Board has first meeting

WOODSTOCK – The new Valley Hi Operating Board met for the first time Thursday, two days after the McHenry County Board appointed its members.

And the meeting could mark the beginning of the end for the County Board committee that has overseen the past few tumultuous years for the taxpayer-owned nursing home west of Woodstock.

The operating board, consisting of five county residents and two County Board members, will act as a board of directors for the home with the goal of maintaining quality of care for residents while continuing to improve the home’s financial health – most of its residents pay through Medicaid.

“We thought we would make more progress, especially in a financial sense,” said Valley Hi Committee member James Kennedy, D-Lake in the Hills.

County Board members on Tuesday appointed residents Dallas Larson, Peter Michling, Victor Narusis, Lynn Ryan and Joanne Hanrahan to the operating board. The County Board’s two representatives are Kennedy and Scott Breeden, R-Lakewood.

The operating board will manage the home’s day-to-day operations, but ultimate responsibility for the home and its budget still falls on the County Board.

“We needed people to watch [Valley Hi] on a more consistent basis and tailor Valley Hi to the opportunities that the feds are going to give us or take away,” said County Board member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake.

The operating board’s creation is the latest of several major steps that county government has taken to restore Valley Hi’s financial health after years of running a significant deficit.

The County Board decided in October 2007 to hire an outside firm to manage Valley Hi after a scathing outside audit revealed that the home’s expenses had outpaced its revenues for five straight years and ran a $2 million deficit in 2006. The audit did not factor in the $6 million a year the home gets from a special county property tax.

Cary-based Revere Health Care generally kept cost increases to 5 percent while boosting income more than 26 percent, and cut the home’s $2.5 million 2007 deficit by almost half by 2009.

County Board members earlier this year ended the contract with Revere and hired Tom Annarella as Valley Hi’s new administrator.

The operating board plans to meet Wednesday evening to appoint its officers and set regular meeting dates. The positions are volunteer and unpaid.

County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, said that the County Board would decide the future of its Valley Hi Committee when it reorganizes after the November election. Koehler said the committee likely would be disbanded and oversight of the home ceded to the board’s Public Health and Human Services Committee.

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