After months of staff turmoil, allegations of flawed management, and public outcry, the Clarkfield Council voted to accept a new Care Center management contract with Minnewaska Community Health Services, based out of Starbuck. This means that the existing contract with the long-time management company Ecumen will not be renewed at the end of their service period.

The Council had previously issued a Request for Proposals (an invitation for management contract to submit their proposed contracts to the city for consideration) and received only two responses, one from Minnewaska and one from Ecumen. Nothing will change regarding city ownership over the Care Center, and Mayor Dale Stringer, III assured the public that the transition would be “smooth.”

With the exception of the Emily Bruflat (who had not read either proposal on account of being being out of town), each Council member voiced his or her opinion. Dale Stringer Jr. noted that the situation with Ecumen had not changed much in recent months, and expressed concern over the steady loss of nurses and other Care Center employees.

Mayor Stringer III agreed, and added that Minnewaska had a special focus on rural communities. He also said that Minnewaska was better prepared to tackle the coming changes in health care and that they have a “proven track record” and were “the way to go.”

Council member Jerry Kaupang underscored that the proposal was “a big decision.” He related to the Council several conversation he had with Minnewaska employees in Starbuck, in which he received positive reports about their management approach and healthcare capacity. He admitted that it was a “tough decision to change over,” but added that “change is always tough. We’ve got to do what’s best for the residents.”

Also voting in favor of the change was Council member Sue Fritz. She recognized the many years of “quality service” provided by Ecumen, but added that times have changed. She also underscored her support for maintaining the Care Center for future generations, saying, “I don’t want the Care Center to go away, it’s a vital part of our community.”

According to Mayor Stringer III, there is little difference in the cost of the two proposals. The principal deciding factor was the quality of management provided by the two competing bids.

The Clarkfield City government will now need to hammer out the details of the transition with both Ecumen and Minnewaska before the official turn-over date of September 1, 2018.