LAWRENCE COUNTY Hill View transition prompts concerns

The nursing home labor union representative plans to meet with the new owners and talk about job security.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Vicki Tarnoci said putting her elderly aunt in Hill View Manor was the hardest decision she ever had to make.
Now she's worried about the future since Lawrence County commissioners announced they are selling the county-owned nursing home to a private group.
"It scared me a little bit. I wouldn't want Dorothy uprooted again because it was so hard for her to adjust," said Tarnoci, of Slippery Rock Township. Her aunt, Dorothy Barron, has been in the home since September.
County officials, however, say there should be no disruption to patients and most of the staff when Sylvan Heights Realty Partners LLC takes over in about 30 days.
The group has already sent a temporary administrator to take charge of the home when the previous management company hired by the county to operate it pulled out last week.
Part of agreement
As part of the sales agreement, the new owners must continue to operate Hill View Manor as a nursing home. They have also agreed to update the home, which hasn't seen any significant changes in decades, according to county commissioners.
Lawrence County Commissioner Roger DeCarbo said he has gotten a positive response since the sale was announced.
"The public has been saying this is long overdue. We have no need or right to horde 38 acres of property or be in a business we can't run," DeCarbo said.
Hill View Manor, founded as a home for indigent people, sits along Pa. Route 65 in Shenango Township. Through the years various boards of county commissioners have talked about selling the business and land, but nothing was ever done.
Prospective buyer
The current board decided to market a 21-acre wooded section of the property last year and had a prospective buyer who was interested in building an assisted living facility on the land, but was unable to come up with financing.
After that deal fell through, commissioners DeCarbo and Brian Burick decided to put the home and all of the surrounding property up for sale.
About a month ago they announced that the county was entering into exclusive negotiations with Sylvan Heights Realty LLC of New Castle, a company formed exclusively for this deal by four Lawrence County residents. George Howley of Union Township is the only member of the group to go public so far.
Voted to sell
Last week, commissioners, in a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Ed Fosnaught voting no, agreed to sell the nursing home and property to Sylvan Heights for $1.665 million.
Some of the conditions of the sale are that the new owners must continue to operate the nursing home and keep the current labor union, Construction and General Labors Local Union 964. Members of the union refused to comment on the sale and referred all questions to their union business representative, Robert Session.
"As far as the employees, they are just afraid. They are thinking their jobs are going to be gone, but that's normal," Session said.
Session said he expects to meet with the new owners to discuss employment.
There are about 100 union members working at Hill View Manor, he said.
County commissioners say most union jobs will be secure after the sale. As part of the sales agreement, the new owners have agreed that there will be no massive layoffs that would trigger Pennsylvania's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Notification must be given to the state and letters sent to employees warning them of impending layoffs under that act.
Other family members of Hill View residents, much like Tarnoci, say they don't know much yet about the sale and are waiting to hear something from the new owners.
Karen Levis of Ellwood City said she isn't sure what to think.
"My father is there, and they are taking good care of him. He's my main concern," she said.
Levis added she hopes the new owners keep the current employees because she has been happy with the care her 85-year-old father receives.

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