Countryside controversy has quieted for now

WARRENSBURG - The discontent and controversy earlier this year surrounding job and budget cutbacks at Countryside Adult Home have subsided, facility director Brenda Hayes told Warren County leaders Nov. 25.

Countryside is also now running nearly 3 percent under budget since three positions were eliminated and three others had duties shuffled, she said.

"The uproar has quieted down and everything is very comfortable right now," she told county Supervisors during a county Health Services meeting.

In June, Countryside employees and residents staged a public demonstration at the county Municipal Center protesting against job cuts, facility downsizing and reduction of activities.

At that protest, employees facing termination alleged favoritism, nepotism, retaliation and mismanagement at the home. Hayes disputed the charges, showing documentation that she was even-handed with personnel. She contended the allegations were prompted by the changes she was making to dramatically cut taxpayer expenses at the home, which has a declining population.

Countryside Adult Home is a county-sponsored facility that provides room, board and activities for elderly or special needs adults that don't have the means to live on their own.

This summer, Hayes had the home re-certified by the state as a 48-bed facility rather than one accommodating 60 residents, which meant less stringent regulations, including staffing. In doing so, she eliminated three positions, including Activities Director, Assistant Activities Director and Case Manager, to save taxpayer money.

The home now has a population of 40 residents.

Wednesday, Hayes showed the county Supervisors figures that she had cut expenses at the facility in 2009, despite dramatic hikes in employee retirement and hospitalization costs. Net savings to taxpayers amounted $47,000 of the facility's annual budget of $1.74 million. Of that sum, about $660,000 is shouldered by county taxpayers, according to county Supervisor Matt Sokol.

Several activities that required considerable work by Countryside staff were downsized or eliminated in the cutbacks, Hayes said.

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