Dubuque care facility change jeopardizes dozens of jobs - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque care facility change jeopardizes dozens of jobs

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

About 70 area jobs may be on the chopping block in Dubuque County.

A residential care facility that serves people with mental illnesses faces a change in ownership. Dubuque County currently owns the Julien Care Facility, but supervisors are selling the building.

Two organizations have been bidding on the building.

One of them is a group called Developing Alternative Choices or DAC, Inc. It currently runs the program at Julien Care Facility and has done so since 2006.

The other organization is Hillcrest Family Services, which currently rents a wing at Julien Care Facility for one of its programs.

At their Monday meeting, Dubuque County supervisors announced their unanimous decision to go with Hillcrest, which is stirring up some questions about the future of DAC staff members working at Julien Care Facility.

Dave Smith is the Dubuque director of operations for DAC.

"We feel like we've provided six years of service here and done a good job," Smith said Tuesday.

He, along with the approximately 70 DAC employees at Julien Care Facility, face unemployment if Hillcrest takes over.

"Essentially, they stated in their original proposal that they're going to bring on all new on-site management," Smith said. "I didn't think so much that I would be hired, but there certainly supervisory, administrative people out here that are very concerned about that."

Gary Gansemer is president and CEO of Hillcrest Family Services.

"We plan to interview any staff who wishes to apply," he said of the DAC employees' situation. "I believe that we will be enhancing the level of service out there, thus requiring more staff than what currently are employed there."

"There doesn't seem to be much incentive to hire them," Smith said, "because if they hire 50 plus percent, then they would have to engage in negotiations with the current union, so it seems like there's incentive to not hire very many of our people."

DAC initially bid $1 million for the building, but its most recent proposal said it would pay up to $1.5.

County supervisors awarded the purchase to Hillcrest, which bid $1.25 million.

"I think it was political from the start," Smith said. "I think Hillcrest is a considerable presence within the community, to their credit. We're viewed as the outsider."

"Hillcrest has been measuring outcomes to how we impact change in clients' lives," Gansemer said. "Those are facts, so I think those are what speak for themselves in this process, not what somebody thinks that some politician or somebody did behind the scenes."

On Tuesday, supervisor Eric Manternach said supervisors considered each organization's bid price, the daily rate they'd charge for county-funded clients and the continuation of services so existing clients went through as little disruption as possible.

Manternach said supervisors felt either organization would've done a good job. It's that fact, however, that has DAC employees such as Smith wondering about the supervisors' exact criteria in selecting one organization over the other.

The supervisors' decision can't be made final until the public has a chance to comment. Supervisors expect to hold the public hearing at their June 18 meeting.

Click HERE to read more about the bidding process.

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