The Monmouth County Freeholders are moving forward with plans to privatize the two county-owned and operated nursing home care facilities, the John L. Montgomery Center, Freehold, and the Geraldine L. Thompson Care Center, Wall. Photo by John BurtonMonmouth County Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone hopes if all proceeds as he hopes, the county will no longer be operating nursing care facilities. Residents and employees have other hopes and concerns.The Board of Chosen Freeholders recently voted to seek requests for proposals to sell the two nursing care facilities, located in Freehold and Wall. And Arnone said this week if plans move as expected, within four to six months they would have settled on private sector operators for the county’s two care facilities, to the betterment, he stressed, of both the residents of the facilities and for county taxpayers. Because, he maintained, “In five years from now” – given the current state of the economics of running them and condition of the two facilities – “these facilities wouldn’t exist.”But residents and workers at the home disagree.“I think it’s a bad idea,” said Ginger Smith, Jackson, Tuesday as she was leaving the John L. Montgomery Care Center, 115 Dutch Lane Road, Freehold.She feared what the future might bring for the staff, some of whom have worked at the site for decades, she said; and about the residents, especially her 38-year-old son who has been a resident in the facility’s young adult ward for eight years.“It’s like a family here,” she said. “I hope they don’t shut the place down.”In a 4-1 vote conducted at a special meeting on Tuesday, March 24, the board offered its support to privatize both the John L. Montgomery Care Center, Freehold, and the Geraldine L. Thompson Care Center, Wall, which have been operating in one form or another, providing care for low income patients since at least the 1930s.Freeholders have been long debating cutting loose the two facilities, as both facilities have been operating at a loss since at least 2007, continue to have vacancies and have declining reimbursements from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, county officials have said.Freeholders have cited losses at $7.5 million annually for both facilities. “I truly, in my heart, believe, I’m doing the best for the residents of both of the facilities,” Arnone said about the freeholders’ action.The facilities are in need of capital upgrades that have been estimated at roughly $5 million. But the overriding reason for going this route, Arnone said, is due to cuts in federal Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.“It’s virtually impossible for government to be in this business,” and it hasn’t been an uncommon occurrence in recent times for county government to get out of it, Arnone said.“We’re not the first county to privatize or the seventh or eighth,” he offered. “Mr. Arnone is right on point,” and for the reasons the freeholder contended, said John Donnadio, executive director of New Jersey Association of Counties.According to Donnadio, five or six years ago as many as 14 New Jersey counties were operating nursing facilities. Now, however, it’s down to seven counties operating nine facilities. Union County completed the sale of its facility in December 2014 and Warren County is completing its sale to a private entity, he said.“It is a tough decision. But you have to balance the needs of the residents with that of taxpayers,” Donnadio said.Employees at the two facilities haven’t had a salary increase in four years. “And they don’t deserve that,” Arnone responded, “ They’re great employees.”With the announcement, though, “There are a lot of nervous people,” said a Montgomery employee, who declined to be identified. “They’re not telling us anything and people are worried.”“I hope they see the faces and not just dollar signs,” of the employees and residents as the freeholders consider selling the sites, said Tracey Lewis, who has worked as a clerk at Montgomery for the last year. “I hope the employees and patients are going to be OK.”“I’m hoping whoever buys it keeps everyone here,” Smith said. “Everybody here has been great. And my son considers it home.”“It is nice and clean and the aides are very nice,” said a 73-year-old male resident who wouldn’t give his name.He placed his walker by the outdoor bench by the entrance and leaned in, saying, “It’s all right here. But who knows now what’ll happen, am I right?” he acknowledged, thinking he might relocate to an apartment in Freehold. “I can do it. I try to keep myself in shape,” he said as he lights the cigarette.“The private sector will run it better, will operate it better, as a true business,” Arnone believed. The request for proposals in the process of being drafted would certainly take into account the residents and “Under no uncertain terms is anybody being displaced,” he stressed.