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Walsenburg Care Center could be closed

by Larry Patrick

WALSENBURG- Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha told commissioners and members of the Walsenburg City Council Monday night, that Copper Sands, the non-profit owner of the Walsenburg Care Center, is prepared to shut the facility down Dec. 31st of this year if a solid direction toward a new facility isn’t in place.

    Commissioner Art Bobian said he would hate to see an additional 36 jobs lost by losing the facility.  The commissioners have offered an acre of land at the Huerfano County Community Center area which Copper Sands people say is appealing.   But the site would require a preliminary engineering study (PER) and they don’t want to put up the money for it.  The county doesn’t have the money to do it for them.

    A 17 acre site west of the hospital is another alternative but there is no sewer or water available plus it would cost approximately $150,000 for a PER and other up front costs.  Copper Sands is not willing to pay that.  The city and state have not gotten together on a four acre site that Walsenburg has leased to them on a long term basis.  There had been some discussion on trading that land for the site the Walsenburg Care Center sits on but city officials don’t want to pay for having the building demolished, especially if it contains lead or asbestos.

    It appears that Copper Sands is interested in the city or county building a facility and having it publicly owned but privately operated by them.  Neither the city nor the county has the financial resources to do that right now.

    Losing the “Certificate of Need” could also mean the city could lose licensing of beds for any future facility that would want to build here if Copper Sands doesn’t stay.

    City councilwoman Erin Jerant said, “This corporation has the money but they don’t want to spend it.  Nursing homes make money.”  She went on to say that, “Copper Sands big shots drive BMW’s.  It’s up to private corporations to pay their own way.”

    One option discussed was having the veteran’s home expand to include an addition for non-veterans and keep the “certificate of need” in force.

    If Copper Sands follows through with its threat to shut the Walsenburg Care Center down on Dec. 31st, the city and/or county have less than 90 days to come up with a plan to keep them here and not lose additional jobs on top of the prison having closed earlier this year.