County delegates upset that non-profit will not offset nursing home cost


July 28, 2011
OSSIPEE— It is not permissible under state and federal non-profit regulations and, therefore, the answer is simply "No" – the Friends of Mountain View will not be raising $2 million to help pay down the debt of the new nursing home. That was the message delivered to the county delegation July 18, and at least three members were not happy with the news.

Friends of Mountain View is a newly-registered 501(c)3 charity. According to its articles of agreement on file with the NH Secretary of State's Office, its mission is to help provide for the quality of life and quality of care for its residents by securing financial contributions and those of time, talents and gifts in kind.

In the recent nursing home newsletter, the group is described as one that will provide funds for items that the budget does not support. They are currently working on a list of what those needs are including equipment for two Snoezelen rooms, rehabilitation equipment, gardens, resident flat screen televisions, and recreation activities and supplies. A Snoezelen Room, of which there are two in the new nursing home, are meant to provide therapeutic effects for Alzheimers patients by giving them a place to relax from noises and pressures of the day-to-day nursing home environment. These rooms are typically filled with soothing sounds, aromatherapy, and calming lights.

At the delegation meeting, the public was reminded that three delegates did not vote to build the new home – Gene Chandler, Karen Umberger, and Chris Ahlgren.

At issue is that fact that at least some of the delegates believed the non-profit was being formed to first offset the cost of the bond for the $23 million nursing home by raising $2 million in private donations first and then would move into other charitable work for the nursing home residents.

Rep. Umberger said, "When you structured the 501(c)3 and made the decision about how it was going to be structured, you did that as the committee and that information never came back to the delegation until such time your 501(c)3 was approved by the IRS… In the instructions I thought we had provided was the condition that some of the money collected should go to paying the debt…What I'm hearing is that that was ignored. The question becomes, why was it ignored and perhaps the mission of the 501(c)3 that we anticipated isn't going to be met and so we authorized it to occur, maybe we can unauthorize it."

Rep. Betsey Patten, chair of the delegation, confirmed news recently received by the non-profit from the NH Secretary of State's Office and Internal Revenue Service. "We as a delegation and the commissioners have no say on what they (Friends of Mountain View) do. We made a motion that we wanted the first $2 million that the 501(c)3 raised to be used for debt reduction. We voted on that and according to Secretary of State there is not an ability of the delegation to say the two million needs to go to debt reduction," said Patten.

Rep. Ahlgren expanded on Patten's thoughts to let the room know what the delegation was thinking back when they approved the nursing home project. "The intent was that the delegation agreed to bonding that there would be an effort by the commissioners upon which there was a private money and public money partnership and the 501 was to be the vehicle upon which that was to be facilitated. That was the essence of the motion. We expected that during the construction we would see this coming from the non-profit. Private people can make donations and they are deductible as a charitable contribution. A committee needs to be set up by the commissioners. The thought process was that you'd be selling bricks, naming wings, naming buildings. Instead of a vehicle that was trying to meet that end we ended up with a vehicle that was trying not to meet that end whatsoever. The forging of the private, public partnership to build the building never occurred," said Ahlgren.

County Commissioner David Sorensen, however, shot back and asked why this additional responsibility should fall to the commissioners. He also added he has not seen any personal donations from the delegation. He announced he is donating $1,000 worth of plant materials for the gardens. Rep. Dave Knox said he, too, is giving a donation and urged his fellow delegates to give what they can afford and to let the Friends of Mountain View continue with their mission.

Former county commissioner and now chairman of Friends of Mountain View Chip Albee disagreed that there was ill-intent on the part of the non-profit and they were somehow trying to find a way to circumvent the ruling handed down by the delegation, which they apparently had no authority to hand down in the first place. "There was no concerted effort to undermine your motion. We have just gotten approval from all the parties to raise money. We are trying to work out a mechanism for a private public partnership for the purpose of reducing the debt for the county. The donation wouldn't come through our group. Our mission is to benefit the residents of the home to give them a better life experience for the end of their lives. Our mission is for those people, not for the reduction of debt. Our first function is to help the residents of the nursing home and to take two million off the top is not going to happen and I think it is a poor choice on your part and would totally take away our ability to benefit the people of the home," said Albee.

Rep. Patten attempted to end the discussion by telling the group, "We voted to spend $23 million for the nursing home. If there was the ability to have $2 million in donations, I think was a dream. Nobody's going to give to that. If I had the $2 million I wouldn't want it to go to the debt. I'd want it to go to a garden or a wing. You are obligated to get together not as delegation members but as people and come up with something that is structured that says the first $2 million will go to the nursing…go for it and do the fundraising. We spend so much time on the issue of the nursing home that we have been bogged down and we have been fighting each other and creating too much angst. I think the nursing home, the 501, and the residents are very proud with what they have accomplished…I'm tired of this. We have been going over this and over this and over this and we haven't come up with anything but dissention."

By the end of the discussion, there were no suggestions for moving forward with seeking private donations or partnerships to offset the cost of the new nursing home. Delegates will meet again Aug. 22 and are expecting to hear a status report on the nursing home construction, including costs to date and anticipated final costs. Sorensen said it has been projected and is still expected the total project will come in at $2 million dollars under budget, or $21 million. The anticipated ribbon cutting ceremony is Sept. 10 with an open house being held Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 and residents moving into the new facility immediately following that.

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