Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health lease discussion continues


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 10:56 am on Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners and officials from the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health continue to try to find a way to resolve a longtime leasing issue between the center and the county. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — Montcalm County commissioners have made another offer to the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health regarding a longtime leasing issue between the county and the center.

Commissioners previously voted in a committee meeting on Nov. 13 to recommend the full board approve creating a no-cost, 10-year lease for the Center for Behavioral Health to use a county building on about seven acres, which would remain under county ownership. The Center for Behavioral Health would maintain building upkeep costs and would reimburse the county for property insurance.

Center for Behavioral Health Executive Director Robert Brown made a counter offer in a Nov. 28 letter to commissioners.

“We appreciate your willingness to work with us to resolve our problem by offering a zero dollar rent payment,” Brown stated. ” We also have no problem with the maintenance of the building as we have performed that function all along. There was some ambivalence over who should pay the insurance on the building. The mental health board wanted to insure our longterm and exclusive occupancy of the mental health building.”

Brown made a counter offer that the balance of $650,000 for past lease payments be paid in exchange for a 25-year lease with zero lease payments with the mental health board responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the building and the county continuing to be responsible for the cost of insurance; or for a lifetime lease with zero lease payments with the mental health board responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the building and the cost of insurance.

On Monday, commissioners at the Economic Development & Physical Resources Committee made their own counter offer of a no-cost 10-year lease to the Center for Behavioral Health with the mental health board maintaining the building and the county paying insurance costs. The mental health board would have the option to renew the lease at the end of the 10 years and the county must give the mental health board a one-year notification if the county decides to take back the building at the end of the 10-year lease.

“The reason for us giving them a no-cost lease is so we have access back to that building if we need it,” said Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township.

Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer said the advantage of a no-cost lease is that county officials can better control assets in the future.

“Ten years down the road or 12 years down the road, if the county needs to expand, at least we have a potential spot,” Hyzer said. “It gives us some flexibility.”

Commissioners referred the motion to the full board at the regular Dec. 17 meeting.

The Center for Behavioral Health had a 10-year lease with Montcalm County for use of a county building, but had not made lease payments to Montcalm County since October 2006, despite owing the county about $130,000 annually. This problem was created when the Department of Community Health stopped allowing state and federal funds to be used to make lease payments. The 10-year lease expired Sept. 30.

Commissioners and Behavioral Health officials have been discussing possible solutions to the problem for some time, while the county continued to allow Behavioral Health to use the building.

The Behavioral Health Board recently issued the fiscal year 2012 lease payment of $130,000 to Montcalm County in order to trigger a series of steps that will hopefully resolve the funding source issue with the Department of Community Health, according to Brown. The Behavioral Health Board also approved paying a balance of $650,000 to Montcalm County for past lease payments.

The Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health in Stanton is a community mental health authority serving Montcalm County. It provides services and support for people with serious and persistent mental illness, developmental disabilities and children with severe emotional disturbances. It also provides emergency services to anyone in the community 24/7.

For more information about the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health, visit montcalmcenter.org online.

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