By Steve Woodhouse
Knoxville — At a special meeting Monday morning, the Marion County Board of Supervisors chose Ottumwa-based Tenco Industries to handle the day-to-day operations at the Marion County Care Facility.
The supervisors were looking for a new management team, due to the financial and legal struggles current administrator, Community Care, Inc., is facing. CCI is expected to be absorbed by another northern-Iowa based company to address its financial situation.
Two organizations, Tenco and Christian Opportunity Center, submitted proposals to the board for taking over the facility. Board of Supervisors Chairman Craig Agan said he voted for Tenco, because it currently operates other facilities and has been through similar transitions in the past.
Ben Wright, Executive Director of Tenco, was involved in the County's previous management transition, to CCI, in 2007. He led CCI at that time. Through the course of his career, he has navigated similar transitions at other facilities.
Wright had been contacted by CCI about possibly taking over the Marion County Care Facility. Tenco operates facilities in Van Buren, Jefferson and Wapello counties. Wright estimates that the transition of duties from CCI to Tenco is expected to take approximately one month.
As part of the transition, Tenco will reduce the number of residents at the facility to 15. There are currently 23 residents at the facility, 12 of whom are Marion County locals. Reducing the number of residents to 15 complies with State guidelines for Medicaid.
Because of the residential downsizing, Wright said staff numbers will change to reflect the number of residents in need of services. Each worker at the Care Facility will be interviewed. Wright said Tenco will attempt to transfer those who will not remain employed at the Care Facility, or assist them with finding other employment. He is hopeful that layoffs can be avoided.
Agan is hopeful that Marion County residents can continue to be cared for in Marion County, to be near their families. Tenco cannot force a resident to stay at the Care Facility, if they do not want to stay.
Tenco is taking over two local group homes also operated by CCI. Wright does not believe many changes will take place with either of those, or the day-to-day operations with the Care Facility.
Terms of the agreement between Marion County and Tenco are not yet finalized. Agan wanted to thank everyone for their patience regarding this issue, as he has received calls from vendors, employees and others, regarding the future of the Care Facility.
While Pella's Christian Opportunity Center was passed over for the new agreement, Wright is hopeful that COC will work with Tenco in the future. He believes they can work together to meet the two organizations' common goal of helping those with special needs.
COC Director Rod Braun said that his organization is "okay" with the supervisors' decision. He said the supervisors were presented with two "very different" proposals for the future of the Care Facility, with COC managing the home, while working to move residents into more independent situations.
According to Braun, Tenco was involved in negotiations, about the facility, for over a year. COC was invited to the table approximately a month ago.
Regardless of the supervisors' decision, Braun said that COC will continue to work with Marion County to provide services. He added that COC will also work with Tenco.