SOUTH BEND — As the deadline passed Tuesday evening for proposals to save the county home Portage Manor, there were no surprises.
The only two submissions at the St. Joseph County commissioners’ meeting were a business plan from Dr. Sylvana Atallah of Granger and the four recommendations of a local task force on the issue.
The task force’s top choice is transferring the home to another private entity to run it, be it Atallah or someone else. Commissioners were, in fact, seeking someone else to take the home off of the county’s hands, averting county officials’ original plan to close the home and settle its residents, who either have disabilities or mental illnesses.
May 12, 2023: The task force submits proposals to save Portage Manor with 4 options
But the task force also recommends that the county contribute annually to the home to ensure its viability and maintain some oversight. The home has been running deficits in recent years and eating into its reserves.
“I stand to gain nothing out of this,” Atallah told the commissioners. “The people of Portage Manor deserve to stay there. Everybody’s heart is in Portage Manor. … I can’t say that I’m going to be 100% successful. Just give it a chance.”
Atallah told The Tribune after the meeting that she has established a tax-exempt, non-profit organization called A Place for Everyone. The task force has stated that Atallah’s business plan is “incomplete.” Atallah said Tuesday that she could yet tweak her business plan based on commissioners’ feedback.
Her plan calls for residents who bring a mix of funding, from public reimbursement to private pay. To accomplish that, she’d reconfigure parts of the building alongside the needed renovations.
As of May 11, Portage Manor had 87 residents, down from 105 on Feb. 7 when commissioners announced they’d begin the process of closing down the house. It has a capacity for 144.
The task force also brought more than 1,400 signatures in a written petition to support transferring Portage Manor so that it can be run as a nonprofit organization, along with $2.7 million in American Rescue Plan dollars that commissioners have pledged.
Task force members were disappointed that commissioners wouldn’t allow them time for a formal presentation at the meeting, where they could have answered questions publicly, though task force co-chairman Jason Critchlow added, “I don’t think anyone considers commissioners cold. hearted.”
Carl Baxmeyer, the commissioners’ president, explained that there wasn’t a need for presentations because the proposals’ details had already been published in The Tribune. But he also said commissioners may still arrange for presentations as they review the proposals and, per a press release, seek input from industry experts.
Commissioners hope to pass their recommendation on so that the county council could potentially vote on it June 13.
South Bend Tribune reporter Joseph Dits can be reached at 574-235-6158 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Save Portage Manor proposals Dr. Atallah come county commissioners