Commissioners Divided On Friendship Ridge As Workers Protest Privatization

friendshipridge-rally

Commissioner Dennis Nichols believes the time has come to sell Friendship Ridge to a private entity. Commissioner Joe Spanik is convinced the facility can remain county owned. Commissioner Tony Amadio said he wants to keep the nursing home publicly run, but believes the county may soon be out of options. Workers took to the steps of the county courthouse today to protest any attempt to privatize the facility.

“We have three options available to us,” Commissioner Tony Amadio told the Beaver Countian. “First, we can see Friendship Ridge go bankrupt, and I just can’t deal with that happening. The only two options left are to get concessions to make up for the deficit, or to sell the place.”

Commissioner Amadio said he would only consider a sale as a matter of last resort. “I want to give every opportunity to make this work, to keep Friendship Ridge publicly owned,” he said. “This is not easy for me. Friendship Ridge has been there almost as long as I have been alive … We’ve been working on this for a year and a half, trying desperately to cut costs and do whatever we can to keep Friendship Ridge afloat … But unfortunately I don’t have any magic up my sleeve.”

Commissioner Joe Spanik spoke at a rally held by union workers at the courthouse today, vowing to return to the table to work with labor to come up with a solution to the budget deficits.

“I give them credit for reopening their contract and trying to do what they need to do,” said Commmissioner Spanik earlier this week. “I’ve told the union point blank, we’re $5 million in the hole, we have got to reach that number, and I believe if people keep working toward that goal we can reach it.”

The union representing Friendship Ridge insist they already met the goal set by Commissioners to close deficits at the facility. “Our proposal was reviewed by Friendship Ridge’s CFO. He agreed with our numbers and helped explain them to the Commissioners,” said Friendship Ridge employee and union representative Denise Cox in a statement. “It’s frustrating that Commissioner Nichols is now talking about a different set of numbers.”

County Financial Administrator Vince LaValle noted that Friendship Ridge’s CFO, Mike Kessler, resigned at the end of December.

“From everything that I’ve seen since I’ve been in office, Friendship Ridge needs to be sold,” Commissioner Dennis Nichols told the Beaver Countian. “We’ve gotten three proposals from the union now, all of them filled with management advice and concessions, but it’s not even close to getting us to the break even mark.”

All three Commissioners agree that an independent audit conducted of the latest union proposal showed it saved just $3 million, instead of the $5 million claimed. Officials have told the Beaver Countian that if something isn’t done soon, the County could start having trouble meeting payroll as early as this September. So bad is the financial predicament, say officials, that even if the Commissioners voted to raise property taxes to the maximum allowable by law, the county still wouldn’t be able to close the budget gaps being accrued by Friendship Ridge. The Board of Commissioners have already taken such tax hikes or property reassessments off the table.

Commissioner Joe Spanik said there are still many potential avenues that could be explored to help close budgetary gaps. “For example, we had the option of selling some beds to a firm in Lawrence County, but we haven’t done that,” he said. Commissioners Amadio and Nichols said the option of selling beds to Lawrence County has already been considered, but ultimately rejected as a viable solution to the current budget crisis. “If Joe wants to sell beds, why doesn’t he sell off all 589 beds at once instead of just pieces at a time,” countered Commissioner Nichols.

Employees at Friendship Ridge say a sale of the facility could affect the care of its residents. “We have many concerns regarding Friendship Ridge being sold to a for-profit corporation,” said nurse Kerri Theuerl in a written statement. “Our residents are like family to us, and we don’t want to see our facility turned into a facility that puts profits over our residents.”

At the public meeting of Commissioners held today, one woman personified those fears as she spoke out during a period set aside for public comments. “I’m here for my husband. I’m very emotional about this, we want to know what’s going to happen to our families. I think you shouldn’t do such a thing,” said senior Evlyn Nicolosi, fighting through tears. “My husband can’t speak so I have to speak for him … I’m in the neighborhood so I can go every day by bus to see him. If you take it away I won’t be able to see him … Please think about it.”

“We have a real financial crisis here, that’s what we have, a financial crisis,” Commissioner Nichols told the Beaver Countian. “People are creating unfounded fears about the level of care for the residents of Friendship Ridge if the facility were sold. I don’t want those poor people scared to death like that, they’re being used as pawns and it’s shameful.”

Commissioner Nichols believes a private entity could now manage Friendship Ridge better than the County. “A private operator will get better reimbursements, and will be able to better manage their costs. The quality of care for the residents will not be affected in any negative way — The Board of Commissioners wouldn’t allow it, state regulations wouldn’t permit it, and a private organization would have a financial interest in making the facility an attractive option for people needing care.”

“We have worked very hard on this proposal and will continue working to protect our seniors, because we know a county-owned nursing home is better than a corporation who puts profits over people,” concluded union representative Dennise Cox. “Commissioner Nichols is set on selling, while we are trying to protect the home to hundreds of our most vulnerable citizens … We provide quality care and we give our residents dignity. We take care of the people who built this county.”

Today saw Commissioners Tony Amadio and Dennis Nichols huddled in an office with County Solicitor Joseph Askar and Financial Administrator Vince LaValle, as Commissioner Joe Spanik stood on the steps of the courthouse with labor union officials. At least for now, the county remains divided on how best to handle the crisis.

 

36 comments

  1. at least dennis has a pair the other two need to wake up before our county goes under

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  2. If the private nursing homes in b.c. We’re so awful, don’t you think the relatives of those residents would be breaking down the doors of Friendship Ridge? I have had parents in both types of care, and believe me, they are not different nor pleasant.

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  3. bendovaforchange

    Do I see blame trying to be placed on the commissioners here? The union never attempted to make changes at the facility, and now they are crying FOUL. Everyone knew medicare cuts were coming, and when other healthcare facilities were making changes, Friendship Ridge was standing still. Healthcare is forever changing. GOOD union leaders would have been fighting for changes to be made a couple of years ago instead of waiting to be forced to. The union leaders need to look in the mirror instead of chanting….. Commissioners, Commissioners, Commissioners. The workers at the Friendship Ridge should be looking at their union vote if the facility continues to be county run and unionized.

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  4. If the caregivers and administrators at F.R. are as compassionate and competent as we are led to believe, and I’m sure many are, then wouldn’t it be prudent of the new owners to hire them. Unfortunately, many of the jobs doled out there were political patronage jobs for friends and family and not scrutinized fully. They may not make the cut in a situation where you actually have to work for a good salary AND full benefits.

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  5. Sorry to say Friendship Ridge workers YOUR UNION STINKS, hire an attorney. If I had a family member I would never put them in there, first of all the last incident with Mr Hicks just showed you about safety there, come on , they call someone THREE DAYS AFTER THE THREATS. SECURITY SECURITY SECURITY. The place is not being run right.

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  6. I challenge any of you to come and do the work that these people do YOU wouldn’t make it. And yes the union has been working with the county for a very long time. Some of you people don’t have a clue what’s happening . Oh and Virginia no autographs

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  7. Broadway Joe (or so he thinks)wouldn’t know what to look at if a financial statement was put in front of him. Nicols is the only one with any experience out of the 3, this needs to be a business decision. Unfortunately other financial decisions in the county are teetering on this bottomless money pit. Selling it doesn’t mean the place is going to close. Keep electing the same clowns for the circus.

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  8. bendovaforchange

    @Taxpayer I am not doubting the work ethics of the workers at the Friendship Ridge. I am however, doubting the union. I am certain that the hardworking individuals pay a good amount of union dues per worker. Those dues are paid by the worker so that their best interest is protected, and at this point in time, that would be their job. The union was interested when they were forced to be interested. If they were working with the county for a very long time I think resolution would have been accomplished by now. Please stop misleading people including the hard working people at the Friendship Ridge. I am certain that those union dues could buy alot of food and clothes for their families. Yes, I think I do have a clue what is happening and what was going on all along. There was no action being taken by the union when talks were first started about Medicare cuts, and now it is too late. There always has to be a scapegoat found when wrongdoing can not be faced or admitted. Oh, and Virginia you can have my autograph.

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  9. No one ever mentions that the other nursing homes in BC take little or no medicade patients because they simply do not make money on them. That raises the question who is going to buy this place for 30 mil that Nichols is BSing about? The answer to that is no one will. If they are able to unload it it’s going to be for nothing more than the value of the land it’s sitting on with the intent to turn any investment in what they don’t tear down into a paying customer facility . Too bad for most in BC you can’t afford that, teapartiers and anti labor complainers included. The only solution is for the state and federal government to provide the funding needed or to provide funds for an orderly shutdown of the place. Where have you been Mr Christaina ,Marshall and Vogel? Your party controls Harrisburgh and the US Congress . If you can’t get help with this what good are you at all?

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  10. hey our celebrity can I have your autograph

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  11. Bendoverfirchange, rewrite your last post exactly the opposite of what you wrote and you’ll be close to what really happened. ;)

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  12. bendovaforchange

    @Random Guy. Ok, I see, let’s post in reverse here. The union had concerns of Medicare cuts upon first talks of them being placed into law and pursued changes at that time. “CHECK”. The Friendship Ridge workers’ union dues were used for their best interest to secure their union jobs, it is still early, and their jobs are secure. “CHECK”. The Friendship Ridge workers’ work ethics suck. “CHECK”. Thanks, but no thanks Random Guy. I think I would rather post it like I did. The closer to the truth way.

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  13. All you know about this situation is what you read here and in the Times. I can assure you that what the comissioners are saying in the press is very different than what’s being said in negotoations. Unless you’re in the room then you’re talking out your arse. Blaming the union for this situation is like blaming your pen for spelling errors.

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  14. bendovaforchange

    @Random Guy. The union is talking out of their ARSE if they believe that they should have no blame placed on them pertaining to this situation, occuring at the Friendship Ridge. ONCE, again, union dues are collected from workers to protect their best interest…aka…UNION job. Yes, I may not have been in negotiations and may not know the inside stories; however, it is not rocket science to know that the union did not use social sciences in this situation. The combination of common sense and social sciences are a MUST in union representation, ESPECIALLY in healthcare. I believe the unionized hardworking individuals at Friendship Ridge would know whether they have seen changes being made to prevent deficits and privatizing from Medicare cuts, before just recently. It would be interesting to see an outcome of a “YEA” or “NAY” vote from the workers at Friendship Ridge regarding the feelings of the workers towards their union and the proper utilization of their union dues. Maybe the union should have got their pens out a little more often and checked for mathematical deficits inside the facility that were rising before them. “Can’t blame your pen for not using it”. ;-)

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  15. For those who bash friendship ridge employees work ethics, stating it “sucks” or the workers don’t work hard for their $ and benefits, you can kiss my ass! I am a CNA there and have been for 16 years. I work very hard and earn every penny I make. My residents and their families like me very much. I have good work ethic and so do my coworkers. Many people criticizing on this site wouldn’t last five minutes doing what we do. Yes our union reps may suck, but I and many others will be lost if we loose our jobs and our residents will be lost without us too. So hopefully there is a solution to this. Many of us that will loose our jobs and some will end up at the welfare office, and who pays for that. Also many privitized homes do not except residents paying with welfare… So what happens to those people? As always the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I don’t c the commissioners giving up their money. They all have beautiful homes, expensive cars, and always wearing the nicest clothes. I live pay day to pay day. I and many others can’t afford to take a pay cut, pay more for insurance, or even loose my job. So instead of gossiping about who did what and did what wrong maybe think of a solution to the problem.

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    • SpeakTheTruthToo

      Here is a solution to your problem. Go back to school and earn an RN degree. Then you won’t have to live paycheck to paycheck, and you will be more marketable.

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      • proud american

        if everyone went back for their Rn who would do the grunt work . Grow up . Cnas work their asses off . Maybe you are one of the ones who dont like to work and get a legit paycheck

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      • SpeakTheTruthToo

        You’re right. Somebody has to do the grunt work so maybe you are a bitter CNA that can’t handle the schooling involved to become an RN? There is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t bitch about your pay.

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  16. Everywhere you go, you will find employees with good work ethics as, well as those with bad work ethics. unfortunately, people are more concerned with the negative.
    has the county ever considered charging a fee to utilize the parking garage at the courthouse? You’re charged to park on the street, why not the garage? It will not solve the deficit, but will generate revenue… This deficit is not the Union s nor completely the commissioners fault. Cuts from federal funding have had an enormous impact. if cuts were made starting with non union management positions, reconfiguration of how many supplies are ordered, wasted, and then possibly concessions from employees, if commissioners and union and administration would actively work together, A solution may be found. To expect only the union staff to make concessions is not acceptable. Majority live pay to pay as it stands currently.
    As for those residents that are covered by welfare, sadly it seems they a are not thought of in this process. When patients are treated as a business deal, human compassion is all that’s left…and that comes from nursing staff, not politicians

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  17. Don’t pay any attention to these rats annoyed They always come out of the woodwork and attack. They’ve done it to the steelworkers ,US Air, Aliquippa Hospital employees and others who have been destroyed by the greed of the last 30yrs. They remind me of I guy I knew from Aliquippa that was quite well known in the county. He wore a western sryle hat, drove a red truck and was a republican party activist. He could have been the original tea partier. At every BC commisioners meeting , quip council meeting singing his right wing anti government tune. He’d be on the local talk shows daily ranting and raving over government social programs,unions and on and on. He was screaming out of his truck driving by the RNs when they were organizing at the court house that they all should be fired. How ironic it was when visiting a family friend at Friendship Ridge I ran into old L U. He was a resident there on medicade getting cared for like a king by the system and employees that he so often attacked before he was flat broke ,old and sick. These people are no different ,they’ll go through life fashioning themselves as rugged individualists criticizing and complaining about everything and everyone but when they find themselves down and out in the street they’ll all go for help wherever they can find it. Too bad that Friendship Ridge won’t be there to take care of them .

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  18. bendovaforchange

    @Annoyed. If you read the post carefully, you will see that no one was bashing the workers at Friendship Ridge. I do agree with you on youkr above concerns, and I hope all works out for the best for everyone involved. Thank you confirming that the Union Reps at the Friendship Ridge SUCK. I just knew that the union representatives couldn’t be doing their part to the fullest extent possible if it has come to this point; if they had, then Friendship Ridge may have been able to weather the storm.

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  19. Friendship Ridge is a valuable asset to the county.Most of you don’t want to believe that .there are many ways to turn the debt to a plus. One would be to get rid of the dead weight you know the one who got jobs because of connections with this person or that one or the one who calls the sheriff. And is totally worthless . The unit recently closed could be hospice or turned to assist living or group home so many things. Why do we need a payroll dept when the court house has one mmmmmmmmm more waste. The commish the union and management all need to sit down and work this out .and all of you that think ur tax money has been being used for years need to remember the MANY MANY years that the money made there was in the county fund I e. parking garge ridge payed for want more. Switch board really don’t need Supervisor s in a deptment run by a separate company mmmmmm. The union has worked hard for over a year to help close this gap the commish would not meet or if they did set one up the commish would cancel

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  20. To bendovaforchange – Since when is it a Union’s job to find needed money and savings? Isn’t that the job of Management (Oh right their not union) and exactly how much is the management firm overseeing FR charging a year? Your might find some pretty hefty payments. FR was built and paid for by the very people that now call it home, Everyone loved it when they were pulling money out of it for this and that instead of reinvesting in the facility and now the well has run dry. Perhaps an independent audit of exactly where the money went to and to whom it went would leave alot of people with a little pucker. There were alot of hands in the pot, so let’s take a look and see who really benefited.

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  21. I asked this before and ill ask again….why is it up to the union to find $5 – $7 million in savings? The county pays an agency over a half millon a year to to manage the facility. Where are there proposals? Where do they stand? What are they doing? Why did their CFO resign in the middle of this?

    Unpaid union reps are spending countless hours poring over documents and meeting with commissioners to in an effort to find a solution that works for everyone

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  22. Doing the job the facilty management has failed to do. Why didn’t they see it coming? Or the county?

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    • Its a shame that an employee and others go on this site to disregard the unions efforts to fix the current situation @ Friendship Ridge. The reps have worked diligently to work with the BOC since their attorneys came to them last March but could only proceed as requested information was provided to them , and the 5 million dollars as only added to the equatIon in December. What you obviously don’t know is the countless hours, evenings, weekends, and holidays these ppl have worked through to try to decrease the budget , preserve wages and benefits and maintain adequate staffing ratios.They are not compensated in any way for their efforts, no more than volunteering @local church, food bank, kids sports teams etc .. which the majority of them do also. The most frustrating thing to hear is people complain about how they would of handled the situation differently, it almost makes me laugh because they are usually the loudest and most often heard only because the others are somewhere else working on solutions.

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  23. The people who work at FR work very hard and deserve every penny they make.. However maybe some cuts to the benefits could go a long way.. Time and a half or double time for nearly every single holiday?? Major holidays yes.. But some are ridiculous.. Maybe payin more for their healthcare?? Maybe less PAID sick/personal days?? There is a solution.. People just have to look for it and BOTH sides need to be WILLING!! And there are a lot of nursing homes that take Medicaid patients and their employees aren’t unionized and get paid awhile lot less with very few benefits.. I had my mom in both and the care given in both places was comparable. I know a lot of people who work in the healthcare field and some really do care others care about the paycheck and the benefits..

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    • Tell us alittle bit about youself Bev. How much do you make? What about the rest of your family? What bennies do they have ? You mentioned ridiculous holidays . Which ones? I know a few people that work there . They only get the standard ones like Xmas, Thanksgiving labor day etc. They don’t get all the gov holidays like Nichols and his 50k plus secretary. Can you give us a list of the local homes that take medicaid and how much ? What do you think about Gov Corbett handing out 150 million to his developer buddies last week? That could have supplied the needed 5 mil. What about the 13 mil his friends at PA cyber are sitting on? Is he proposing any cuts to the charter school campaign contributors? Many of the employees at FR live payday to payday now . Are you going to bitch about them when they are food stamps etc? Do you support Corbett cutting business taxes even further when they don’t pay much now? If so then will you tell the workers there to take even more cuts if they can make it until next year because we will have even less state revenue to fund it. You mentioned your mother was in homes. Was she on medicaid ? why ?Did she sign over all her assets to you to avoid paying out of her own pocket? Didn’t she save for her old age? What do you care about ? Just a pay check like you accuse others of? So many unanswered questions about you Bev. Shouldn’t you answer them before you dictate what others should be doing?

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  24. Becoming an RN, doesn’t mean you won’t still live paycheck to paycheck…especially when there’s over $1000.00 being taken out in taxes…. The union staff is expected to take pay cuts, pay more for benefits….why only the union employees? Of course the staff care about their paycheck and benefits, you can’t provide for yourself or family without either. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the residents. If taking care of the young, the elderly the ill, the well, keep out roofs over their heads, food in the home, covered doctors appts, then expecting a pay cut would be reasonable. To assume that staff only care about money and benefits is wrong. The workers don’t qualify for assistance from welfare.

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  25. bendovaforchange

    Oh, I see, now the union is blaming management as well as the Commissioners now. Let me spell out why the union should at least consider why they could be the blame here. World News and Politics reports…cuts to Medicare. One part of the timeline of major provisions of Medicare…..07-01-09…..Medicare cuts begin to hospitals, inpatient rehab, and LONG TERM CARE. This is what GOOD union representation should have done and would have done in the year 2009 or prior. “My that could affect our jobs and our county home”. “Maybe we should start pushing issues because this isn’t going to be good”. Now, your gonna say that it is not the job of the union to push issues. “Right”. GOOD unions push issues everyday. They keep pushing and pushing and pushing; sometimes even so much as to have laws changed that will prevent loss of jobs and unfavorable working conditions, etc. That is why union members pay union dues, so these type of things can be fought for. “Do you see where I am going here”? The union should have had a list of provisions of Medicare that they were looking at a few years back (not just one or two). The problem that lies here with the union is; even if the Commissioners, the Management, the Agency that the county hired to oversee the facility, or the freaking guy next door or whoever else the union wants to blame that they weren’t looking at things or doing their part on…”Guess what”? “Who cares”! “You the union should have been paying attention, pushing issues and not stopping at NO”. Is it understood where Social Sciences and common sense would have helped here? That is, if the concern was there at that time_not until the concern has to slap you in the face. A little research tells me that inside the Friendship Ridge management pretty much conforms to the union. The union usually dictates what goes on. Union representatives doing all this for nothing? Don’t think so! Rumor has it that Union Reps pretty much can do what they want, get the shifts they want, etc.etc. Sounds to me like they have their own interest first here, and are trying to save their own ass. Yes they would have to save everyone else’s right along with them to keep the strong politics in play inside. However, the politics inside the facility would be gone if it privatized. Things would then be fair for ALL the workers at the Friendship Ridge then wouldn’t they? Things that make you go Hmmmm!

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  26. Mary Ann Shaklee

    How about looking at the balance of power at FR. It appears to be management heavy. A pricey management company, political jobs that have been created even since this financial crunch, managers upon managers. Looking at the fluff before throwing out the whole thing would be the smart thing to do. Commissioners have NO clue to the reality of this whole thing!

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  27. So what your saying bendover the union should be responsible for the the misguided priorities of this country for the last 40yrs . Tax givaways, unfunded wars , deregulation with the following scandals after scandals causing bailout after bailout. What about offshoring of jobs ? No touching those issues are you? The reasons for the cuts. How about Corbett’s giving 150 million to the wealthy developers? Take 5 mil from that. Problem solved, Campain contributers still get 145 mil. How about putting the blame where it belongs on Corbett, Vogel, Christaina, Marshall, Rothfus,Boehnor, Mc Connel. Cantor . They are in firm control of the funding. You’re shooting your mouth off about Medicare being cut along with the union not stopping all of this . Medicare only pays for the first 100 days of long term nursing care. Medicaid takes over after that. Your rants are nothing more than an attempt to scapegoat the workers for their plight for whatever ideological reasons you may have. Frankly you don’t have much crebibilty and will most likely be dismissed by all.

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  28. Bendovaforchange -Who Cares???? Let me tell you, everyone should care and everyone should sit back and pay attention to what is happening – not only at the ridge, even though this is a snapshot of what is to come to all aspects of employment everwhere – YOU should care or take a hint from your screen name and practice assuming the position because your turn is coming sooner then you think.

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  29. What this whole thing shows is the sad state of political representation in the couty today. We have Spanik and Amadio jockeying for position playing good cops to the rigid ideologue Nichols bad cop. You can say what you want about Jimmy Albert but does anyone believe with the gov of his own party in town he wouldn’t have been there giving him an ear beating over this . Add Charlie Laughlin to that. Jim Ross.? He would have had they highways blocked and not let him out of the county without the funding first. I never thought I’d say I miss Veon but a least he brought in as much as he stold. Robb Matzie ? Who’s he ? It’s not just the republican do nothings. Don’t look to the national democrats for any help here . This county voted against the president twice and put a republican rep in the house. Let’s see what the republicans are willing to do for us other than give us the same stale ideology they have for the last 30 yrs.

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  30. Friendship Ridge provides good care to the residents of Beaver. The staff works hard and it is obvious that residdents are happy. Union workers are skilled and are working at Friendship Ridge because their talents are appreciated. If this facility becomes private…care will decline. If it becomes private…wages in all nursing homes in this area will decline. Friendship can survive as is and I don’t believe the lie that a sell is necessary. I pledge to vote out any commissioner that hurts Friendship and I’m not alone.

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