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Initial WLRC bids rejected; lawmakers will wait for more

Aug 14, 2015 By Christina George, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Task Force on Department of Health Facilitieshit the reset button on the planned overhaul of the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander, rejecting the only two bids for initial design work during a July 24 meeting in Cheyenne and agreeing to wait for a few more bids to come in.

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, who co-chairs the task force, said the group wanted a minimum of three firms to choose from.Only two firms have expressed

interest in the project so far, onein Colorado and one in Montana.

"It's not that we didn't like those proposals, it's just that we needed more of them. We were nervous, and we just felt we needed to have more participation," Larsen said. "Most of the firms in Wyoming looked at it, but it's a significant project, so a lot of them were needing to partner up with a larger, maybe multi-state firm and (needed) the time to make that happen. Also, a lot of the larger firms that do nationwide health facility work were not aware that the request (for bids) had gone out."

The WLRC overhaul project is the result of arecommendation from thetask force solicited by the Wyoming Legislatureregarding possible improvements at five state-run safety net medical facilities: theWLRC, the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston, the Veterans Home of Wyoming in Buffalo, the Wyoming Retirement Center in Basin and the Wyoming Pioneer Home in Thermopolis.

The task force recommended prioritizing the WLRC and the WSH. At the Lander facility, plans could include adding an intermediate care facility and a skilled nursing building.

Bidding on the WLRC project began in June, when the task force sought feasibility studies and cost estimates for WLRC and WSHrenovations. The requestincluded an option for firms to study cost estimates for proposed changes at the VHW in Buffalo as well.

"We have the potential of spending $150 million to $200 million by the time you get construction done at the three places," Larsen said. "We want to make sure right from the start that we are being wise on how that money is being spent and in what way and (that we) are not squandering it for something that we later regret."

Rejecting the bids means the task force will not make its Aug. 1 deadline for selecting a firm. However, Larsen said he's hoping to have a firm in place by the end of August.

Larsen said additional bids will be reviewed during the task force'sAug. 17meeting in Buffalo. A selection committee, on which Larsen serves, will create a short list of candidate firms for the full task force to consider.

Reviewing statutes

The task force also spent time during its July meeting reviewing state statutes relevant to the WLRC, WSH and VHW, and identifying any laws that may have to be changed to fit the new missions of the facilities.

Statutes being reviewed for the WLRC are related to admissions requirements and appropriate services, leading some to worry about the welfare of the site's current residents.

"There was public comment at the meeting and a lot of concern on how this would affect the current population at the Life Resource Center," Larsen said. "We've made it pretty clear those changes won't have an effect on the current population, which we refer to as the legacy population. ... They have spent enough of their life in those facilities that they will be able to stay there and not be affected by the changes we make."

"We need to look at some statutes that address (those topics),"Larsen added,"because the current statutes raise questions ... or at least it's ambiguous, on how (clients) can be transitioned in and out of the Life Resource Center."

However, the task force will not make these changes unilaterally. Any recommended changes to state statutes will go through the Wyoming Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.

If that committee finds the changes appropriate, it will then bring a bill to the full Legislature for approval.

One law under task force review currently requires a new, skilled nursing facility to have a "certificate of need."

"Right now if you expand a skilled nursing facility in the state, you have to have a certificate ... stating there is a need to build that type of facility in a community," Larsen explained. "We need to look at that for the (WLRC and VHW) to see if they can be exempt from that requirement."

The task force also plans to update language in statutes to comply with federal definitions, and to include the purposes of each of the facilities.

"We are looking at those statute changes," Larsen said. "We've got some proposed changes that we're now studying and researching in order to validate that those would be the proper changes to make.

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