Champaign County Board votes to put nursing home up for sale

Source: Tom Kacich, News-Gazette, January 9, 2018
 
Champaign County Board members voted Tuesday night to put the county nursing home up for sale.  By a margin of 13-8, with Democrats Pattsi Petrie, C. Pius Weibel and Shana Jo Crews joining all 10 Republicans, the board voted to issue a request for proposals from private operators to purchase the county-owned facility in east Urbana. … Among the terms to any sale of the nursing home: … — The purchaser would assume the existing collective-bargaining agreement between the nursing home and the AFSCME union.  — The purchaser must agree to rehire all existing employees who pass a background check, not terminate 10 percent or more of the employees within the first 60 days following the closing date and not 20 percent or more of the current employees during the first six months after the closing date, all at their current salary levels with benefits similar to those currently received. …

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County board to get first look at proposal for sale of nursing home
Source: Tom Kacich, News-Gazette, October 10, 2017
 
Champaign County Board members will get their first review tonight of the proposal for the sale of the county-owned nursing home.  The agenda for the board’s committee-of-the-whole meeting includes an item calling for the release of a request for proposals for a privately owned firm to buy the 12-year-old facility in east Urbana. If the board approves the RFP this month, the sale of the home could be completed this winter. … The proposed request for proposals for the sale of the facility carries a number of stipulations: … That the purchaser assume the existing collective bargaining agreements at the home with the AFSCME employee union. …

Patient advocates back county ownership of nursing home
Source: Debra Pressey, The News-Gazette, March 29, 2017

Selling the Champaign County Nursing Home could lead to staff reductions, poorer care and service cuts, a group of advocates for medical patients and retirees contended. Gathering less than a week before voters will be asked to weigh in on two public policy questions — whether they support selling or disposing of the financially ailing nursing home or a tax increase to help keep it going — the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Champaign County CARE, Champaign County Health Care Consumers and others Wednesday urged voters to get behind the option that will keep the nursing home in the county’s hands. Research from Center for Medicare Advocacy, Kaiser Family Foundation and others have demonstrated that nursing home ownership matters when it comes to patient care and staffing levels, said Champaign County Health Care Consumers executive director Claudia Lennhoff. … “For-profit facilities, particularly those owned by multistate chains, are more likely to reduce spending on care for residents and to divert spending to profits and corporate overhead,” the Medicare center said in a report. … A 2011 analysis of the 10 largest for-profit nursing home chains found they had the lowest staffing levels and highest levels of deficiencies between 2003 and 2008, Lennhoff said. She also said a new owner — especially a larger and/or for-profit one — who would fill more beds at the nursing home, even increasing the Medicaid census in the process, could be a “recipe for disaster.”

… Lennhoff said Champaign County doesn’t have to look any farther than neighboring Vermilion County to see what can happen when a county disposes of its nursing home. After the county sold its Vermilion Manor Nursing Home to FNR Healthcare Group in 2013, the county was caught by surprise when 39 employees were cut by the new owner, she said. Now called Gardenview Manor, the Danville nursing home was hit by the Illinois Department of Public Health in January for two “type A” violations, which mean “a substantial probability that death or serious mental or physical harm will result or has resulted” in the past three months.

Atlantic City Water Services to Remain in Public Hands

Source: Jocelyn Alcox, AFSCME Now, January 9, 2018
 
Members of AFSCME New Jersey worked hard to make sure Atlantic City’s water system remains in public hands. Just before the Christmas holiday, the state announced that it will not lease or sell the city’s water system to a private company. This followed more than a year of concern from residents and activists about the fate of the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), and is due in large part to the hard work and dedication of AFSCME members in and around Atlantic City. “We immediately knew we had to do something,” said April Gould, president of Local 3408. “Atlantic City is already struggling and outsourcing the water would have been disastrous.  AFSCME members have always been on the front lines of community issues and this time was no different. This is the community that we live in and that we work in, you can’t just leave those problems up to somebody else and hope they work out.” …

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State says it won’t sell or lease Atlantic City MUA to private company
Source: Erin Serpico, Press of Atlantic City, December 20, 2017
 
Following more than a year of concern from city residents and local activists about the fate of the city Municipal Utilities Authority, the state announced it will not lease or sell the water system to a private company. … The state has previously urged the city to dissolve the MUA, but the city either pulled or voted down measures to do so before the state took over in November 2016. For months after, more than 100 people from civic associations, the local chapter of the NAACP, Food and Water Watch and a group called “AC Citizens Against the State Takeover” knocked on doors and collected signatures to protect the water system from being sold. …

Atlantic City Votes To Protect Its Water From Chris Christie
Source: Daniel Cohen, Alternet, July 14, 2017
 
On Tuesday, the Atlantic City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to ensure its residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  Why might New Jersey sell or lease Atlantic City’s water? Well, because Christie has been laying the groundwork for such a deal for years. In 2014, he passed a statewide law making it easier for struggling municipalities to sell off water infrastructure. Turns out, Atlantic City has been struggling—mainly due to a rash of casino closures, including Trump’s failed Taj Mahal. Last summer, after the state bailed the city out, Christie made it loud and clear there were strings attached: “I want [the loan] secured by every asset they have, so that if they don’t pay it, I get to take the assets, sell them and pay you [the taxpayer] back.” Late last year, he delivered on that promise and took control of the city’s assets and most of its decision-making power. …

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Peorians Deserve Their Water Back

Source: Jenya Polozova, Food & Water Watch, December 14, 2017

Illinois American Water is running a complicated show in the City of Peoria. They control the water system and they’re charging residents twice as much as what customers of neighboring public systems pay and the U.S. average. Water privatization in Peoria mirrors issues that towns all across the country run into when they sell a public resource to a privately owned corporation. Each time it means: losing transparency, accountability, management, and reliability. In sum, local residents have little say over the operations of the water system. … With the deadline of fall 2018 fast approaching, it’s finally time for Peorians to take their water back – but the water company is not going to go come to the negotiation table without a fight. …

… Years of propaganda and messaging campaigns create doubt that a City has the ability to provide services. But, when it comes to water systems, public provision is the American way.
… This trend to public ownership continues today. In June, Missoula, Montana, bought its water system from a provide company to provide long-term stability and better water resource management, as well as to make necessary improvements. The system was losing more than half of its water through leaks. The city plans $30 million in investments over the next 5 years — all without raising water rates. As the mayor said: “The city of Missoula is in this business for only one reason and that’s to serve customers. Water is it.” While it is understandable that the local union in Peoria fears that jobs may be jeopardized if the city takes over the water company, the City Council can and should include recognizing the local labor union and keeping the existing workforce as part of the municipalization effort. Not a single union worker should be dropped. Furthermore, cities that take back their water systems experience incredible economic benefits as a direct result. Take the city of Evansville, Indiana, where remunicipalization from IAW was expected to save the city $14 million over a short period of five years. Or even the city of Cave Creek, Arizona, where the city took back their water from American Water and saved an astonishing $1,335,017. …

Florida’s disposable workers: Companies profit from undocumented laborers, dump them after injuries

Source: Maria Perez, Naples Daily News, December 14, 2017

Florida law makes some immigrants in high-risk jobs disposable, allowing businesses and insurers to benefit from their work without covering injuries. …. Some Florida businesses profit from the labor of unauthorized immigrants after accepting phony identification when hiring them, and then the employers or their insurers report them after a work injury for using false documents, a yearlong Naples Daily News investigation found. …. When authorities arrested 12 undocumented workers in a Fort Pierce Waste Pro plant in 2012, accusing them of obtaining a job with false identifying information, six employees told officers they were hired under the identities of former workers or with false information provided by managers or another worker. Arrested workers told U.S. Department of Labor investigators they were asked to pay hundreds of dollars in kickbacks to work at the company. They also said managers threatened to report them to immigration authorities if they said they were injured at work when seeking medical care. The Labor report on the 2013 investigation stated a supervisor once threatened to fire or report for deportation employees who didn’t pay $50 each. State investigators charged the workers for using fake identities, but not the employer. Federal labor officials didn’t cite the company for the kickbacks, saying the violations occurred beyond a two-year statute of limitations, according to the report. Waste Pro was not charged with wrongdoing, it cooperated with investigators, and increased scrutiny of employment documentation company lawyer Amy S. Tingley said. …

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12 Waste Pro workers accused of providing fraudulent Social Security numbers to get jobs
Source: Will Greenlee, Palm Beach Post, July 19, 2012

Twelve Waste Pro USA employees were arrested Wednesday after state investigators received information suggesting workers there submitted fraudulent Social Security numbers for employment purposes, according to affidavits released Thursday.

Unhappy with cleanliness, Chesterfield school leaders break ties with outside custodial service

Source: Vanessa Remers, Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 12, 2017

Chesterfield County School Board members will bring at least some of their custodial services back in-house, cutting ties with an outside contractor that school officials said couldn’t keep the county’s schools clean enough. School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday not to renew their contract with Tennessee-based Service Solutions Corporation. Instead, they moved forward with a hybrid plan in which the daytime custodial work will be done in-house and after-school cleaning will be completed by at least three outside contractors. … In the past two years, school officials charged SSC more than $400,000 in penalties for not meeting the contracted level of cleanliness. … To shift back to at least some in-house custodial work, School Board members supported hiring custodians to work as day porters, in addition to outsourcing after-school cleaning to at least three contractors. That could cost the school system approximately $19 million in the first year, according to a plan that has been proposed by staff. That’s about $7 million more than it pays now under the current SSC contract. The tab could increase to $23 million annually as the schools increase staff to achieve a higher “ideal” level of cleanliness. … The school system switched from providing custodial services in-house to an outside contractor three years ago, in part because the shift would save millions. But even before that switch happened, school officials said the internal system wasn’t staffed properly. …

Private Prisons Offer ‘Poor Compensation, Instability’ to Employees: Study

Source: The Crime Report, December 12, 2017

Private prison staff are disproportionately women of color and receive “poor compensation” compared to employees of incarcerated state and federal populations according to a study published this month in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice. … Just as significantly, Burkhardt says his findings show that private prison inmates serve shorter sentences on average than their counterparts in federal and state institutions. … Compared to state-run prisons, inmates in private sector prisons have limited access to disease prevention programs, are guarded by staff with less training, and have more grievances. The study also found that private prisons are typically non-unionized workplaces that disproportionately hire female workers and in particular women of color. Staff workers in private prisons also receive lower wages than those in the public sector. The demographics for private prison employees show similar imbalances when compared to state and federal prisons. … The study raises questions about the process by which inmates are assigned to private vs. public prisons. …

Read full study (preprint).

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

Source: Anastasia Dawson, Tampa Bay Times, December 11, 2017

As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot in her stomach. It’s been there ever since the first day of classes, when a contracted driver from American Logistics Company pulled into her Riverview driveway to take Owen, her 5-year-old deaf son, to Doby Elementary School in Apollo Beach. “They had no identification, no logo on the van and they didn’t even bring car seats, I watched them try to strap my 50-pound kid into the front seat,” Storey said. … This is the fourth year the Hillsborough School District has used American Logistics Company to transport students protected by federal laws that allow them to attend a different school than the one assigned to their home address. Like Owen Storey, most are in specialized Exceptional Student Education programs. … The School District has paid out $1.4 million to ALC Transportation since entering a contract with the company in December 2013, district officials said. … Yet even with the high price tag, parents such as Storey say they shouldn’t have to fear for their child’s safety when they’re being driven to and from school. Although the same driver is supposed to transport a student all year, at least 10 different people drove Owen to school before frequent phone calls and emails to ALC secured a permanent driver, his mother said.

… ALC was hired in 2013 because it wasn’t financially feasible to continue transporting these students with district school buses and staff, Beekman said. … The same year the California-based company began driving Hillsborough students it was ousted from Dallas County schools in Texas. In September 2013, the Dallas Morning News reported that the School District returned to using school buses to transport special-needs students after parents flooded district offices with safety concerns and complaints about poor communication with drivers. … The Hillsborough School Board reapproved its contract with ALC in September after Beekman explained that bringing those transportation services in-house would have to wait until the School District “gets to a place of better financial stability.” Staff are already working out the costs in a “preliminary business plan,” he said. …

Video: Deal of the Year 2017 – Small Issuer: City of Missoula, Mont.

Source: Bond Buyer, December 6, 2017

The city of Missoula, Montana waged a six-year legal battle to wrest control of its water system from a private company. The water system in the town of 70,000 was privately-owned by Mountain Water – a company that refused to make needed repairs to the system or sell it to the city. … Obtaining traditional financing with no disclosure from Mountain Water — and water assets nearly beyond repair — was unattainable given the risks. The city also had to provide payment before the court could rule it owned the water system. The solution: the direct sale to Barclays of nearly $140 million in A-rated bond anticipation notes. The financing plan uniquely provided the necessary mechanics to allow the city to purchase the water system. Prior to the acquisition, water bills were 17% higher than elsewhere in the state, but dropped to 49% below average after the deal.

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City Of Missoula Takes Ownership Of Mountain Water Company
Source: Beau Baker, MTPR, June 22, 2017

The city of Missoula has taken ownership of the water utility that serves its residents after a three-year court battle. The city bought Mountain Water Company for $84 million and paid another $6.8 million to developers who had a claim against the company. A separate bundle of transition costs, the bulk of which are attorneys’ fees, amounts to $7.5 million.
Mayor John Engen said city attorneys originally estimated the legal costs would be $400,000. Missoula won the right to buy the utility in an eminent domain case. It now joins all 128 cities and towns in Montana in controlling and owning its own water and distribution system. … Merriam says there are no immediate plans to change the rates. …

One for the history books: Missoula will buy its water system
Source: Sherry Devlin, Missoula Current, February 22, 2017

In an historic vote Monday night, the Missoula City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Mountain Water Co., forever ensuring the city’s “access to clean, affordable and reliable water.” … Throughout the recent effort, and decades of unsuccessful attempts by previous mayors and councils, the goal has been to place Missoula’s drinking water system into public ownership. … That now could happen by the end of March. With Monday’s vote, the local water system will be free from an increasingly distant and disaffected roster of corporate owners, most recently The Carlyle Group, a global investment fund, and the Canadian utility Algonquin Liberty. … Missoula’s water has always been in private ownership; all other Montana cities own their water system. … In fact, Bender said, Mountain Water Co.’s purchase by an international hedge fund – The Carlyle Group – imperiled every future generation.
The city’s purchase of its drinking water system will benefit those future generations the most, Bender said. …

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Why is a Private Prison Corporation Doing Business with the IRS?

Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, December 8, 2017

… CoreCivic now owns what appear to be its first buildings that have nothing to do with incarceration. In September, the publicly traded corporation that owns and operates prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and halfway houses bought properties in North Carolina and Georgia that are leased to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA). In their words, the deals are part of a plan to make “additional investment via acquisition in mission-critical government real estate asset classes outside of our traditional correctional detention residential reentry facilities.” In other words, CoreCivic wants to be a landlord of all types of government buildings. … We shouldn’t be surprised. If you recall, CoreCivic used to be Corrections Corporation of America, which rebranded last October not only to outrun bad PR but also to provide a “wider range of government solutions” and “better the public good.” And several years ago, along with primary competitor GEO Group, they changed their corporate legal status to a real estate company—technically, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)—to score a massive tax break. In 2015 alone, the corporations used their REIT status and other avenues to avoid a combined $113 million in federal income taxes. … But CoreCivic’s latest move highlights the newest private prison trend, towards building, owning, and leasing real estate—and they’re selling it hard. …

Inmates removed from OKC halfway house, contract ended

Source: Dale Denwalt, NewsOK, December 5, 2017

The Department of Corrections has abruptly ended a contract with Catalyst Behavioral Services after years of issues at a downtown Oklahoma City halfway house and the death of an inmate who walked away from the work-release residential site last month. … The Corrections Department paid Catalyst $32.50 per inmate, per day. Expenditures last budget year totaled more than $1.5 million and the average bed count was 126. The decision to move inmates from the Walker and NW 8 Street site comes after the death of an inmate who walked away from the site Nov. 11. Ardmore police found the remains of Justin Sullivan and a woman inside a burned vehicle 16 hours before Catalyst staff discovered he was missing, the Corrections Department said. … Catalyst reportedly did not keep an accurate head count and at one point, Allbaugh noted, staff did not have a master key to get into inmate rooms. Non-inmates were able to freely enter the facility without security’s knowledge. … In response, the Corrections Department posted its own security staff on site since Nov. 23. It has ongoing concerns with Catalyst Behavioral Services’ staff training, their experience and ability to conduct proper inmate counts, as well as contraband control and proper searches. … The state oversees nine other halfway houses that are maintained by contracts with private businesses, including another site in Enid operated by Catalyst Behavioral Services that was not affected by Monday’s shuffle. …