More on Valley Hi

First from McHenry County Board member Mike Walkup:

Mike Walkup

Mike Walkup

To clarify the Valley Hi situation.

Valley Hi was originally a nursing home that had been built in the 19th century at the site of a farm owned by the County.

By the late 20th century it had become a run down and decrepit building that looked like something out of a Steven King movie.

[I think Mike is missing the “poor farm,” which is what the three story building was called. The third floor, I’ve been told was used to nurse gangland victims back to health.

[By the time I was elected McHenry County Treasurer in 1996, there was a modern nursing home. I believe this is what Mike is remembering.

[Howard Nelig, the Administrator told me the pigs raised on the farm never had hams. I had to ask him what he was talking about three times before he told me that the hams went home with the County Board members on the Valley Hi Committee.

[After I lost the primary election for State Rep. in 2000, I sat at a County Fair booth that I had paid for before losing. A guy came up saying he had a farm about eight miles out of Woodstock on Kishwaukee Valley Road. He said he had been hired to dig a well at the nursing home. After he got paid a guy came out and told him he was the Chairman of the Valley Hi Committee and asked, “Where’s my share?” The farmer told him he had worked hard for his money and wasn’t going to give him any. The County Board member told him he would never get another county job..and he didn’t’]

In the general Fall election of 2002 the voters of McHenry County were asked if they wanted to approve a special tax levy to “build and staff a county nursing home”.

It passed by around 5000 votes out of more than 75,000 cast.

I think it is reasonable to assume that many voters were focused on the construction of a new building and may not have given much thought to the fact that they were authorizing an ongoing obligation for staffing and other expenses over and above what might be garnered from the state and federal governments.

For many years around $6 Million per year were collected.

The original bonds were paid off.

Due to increased reliance on Medicare and private pay, however, this entire figure did not need to be used.

Subsequently the amount was lowered to $4.5 Million and then to $3 Million while I was on the VH Operating Board.

Annual deficits had been running around $500K until this past year when it was in the red about $1 Million due mostly to slow pay by the state.

Due to the fact that the amounts collected exceeded the operating deficits, the cash reserve climbed steadily to it’s present level of around $40 Million.

Currently there are plans in the private sector to build a couple of new facilities that are associated with local hospitals.

The Valley Hi building is not located near any hospitals, owing to the decision to use land already owned by the county to build the new facility rather than looking at other options.

Valley Hi, located near the unincorporated town of Hartland.

Valley Hi, located near the unincorporated town of Hartland.

(This same logic drove the re-location of the Dept of Transportation, which is now complaining that it needs another facility in the Southeast quadrant of the county were more of the county road mileage is located).

Current trends in the nursing home industry are to marry the nursing home to existing hospitals so patients can be easily moved back and forth.

(This may spell the eventual demise of the free standing nursing home).

If those are approved and built, it will lower, and could eliminate, the Medicare and private pay components of Valley Hi.

Valley Hi loses money on each Medicaid bed.

Due to one of the untended consequences of the PTELL legislation (tax caps), we cannot recapture any levy amount that has been given up without going back to the voters.

Therefore, each time we reduce the levy, we are stuck with that, plus any cost of living increases.

The Democrats in Springfield are apparently wanting to let local governments twist slowly in the wind over PTELL restrictions that were passed by the GOP when they briefly had control of the legislature in the 90’s.

I agree with the PTELL restrictions when applied to local government levies, which are purely discretionary with the local government bodies, but where the voters have expressly approved a specific amount of a levy, it doesn’t make sense not to allow the local government to move the levy amount up and down as needed within that figure.

Otherwise what you get is government stockpiling of the levy collection and/or embarking on projects not originally contemplated just to use it up.

As such, PTELL winds up costing the taxpayers more rather than saving them money.

Comments on what the readers here think are welcome.

We will be voting on the overall budget, including the Valley Hi component, at the next County Board meeting the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

2014 District 1 GOP Primary Election County Board candidate David M. Stieper then wrote:

David Stiepler

David Stiepler

Thank you for the history and explanation.

Are you saying the construction bond and maintenance or Staffing bond were part of the same debt instrument and incorporated into a single tax levy?

My understanding is the construction bond was retired and the structure completed without a reduction in the Valley Hi tax levy?

Am I correct in this analysis and if so, this makes no sense? If I am incorrect, please explain?

Also, what was the date for the expiration of the maintenance bond assuming one was procured or was this just a levy.

Also, given your analysis of the future of nursing home industry in McHenry County which sounds bleak for Valley Hi because it is not located next to a hospital, why consider paying money for any capital improvements.

Isn’t it better to discuss now an exit strategy and returning the care of our elderly back to the private sector where it belongs and where local government can gain some tax revenue?

Walkup replied.

I’ll have to get you that information Dave.

Yes, the long term prospects may not be good.

I think we may be sitting on a White Elephant here.

The problem is that we have now invested substantially in a nice building so what do you do with that?

Trying to develop infrastructure on a site just because you happen to own the underlying land is not a good idea.

Location, location, location.


More on Valley Hi — 27 Comments

  1. Reimburse the taxpayers money they overpaid.

    People are broke.

    Many of our local governments build beautiful buildings with taxpayer money and sell them for a loss.

    The old McHenry Hospital was sold for a small amount of $1 or $10 to a developer who later went bankrupt.

    McHenry is building a rec center when they were supposed to upgrade their water and sewer systems when they build on the east side of river in Gerstad subdivision.

    Before building new things cities and counties need to pay for existing obligations.

  2. As far as the location of McDot and Valley High if you look at the county map there almost exactly in the middle of the county land wise that’s probably why they were put there originally

  3. ” Reimburse the taxpayers money they overpaid. People are broke.” Ditto.

    I no longer trust any politicians with “extra” money they find laying around.

    If it becomes needed again, make the case for it with future voters. Times change, needs change. Those in charge need to change too.

  4. I’m not sure the original rationale that existed 25-50 years ago that justified a county-run nursing home still exists today.

    I’m sure in the distant past the county was underserved with respect to long-term nursing care options.

    That’s clearly not the case today.

    Therefore, it makes more sense for the county to exit from being a provider of long-term nursing care and sell it to a private operator.

    I’m not sure what the market rate is for a facility of this size.

    Lets guess at 1X Annual Revenues, that’s about $10 million.

    Combine that with the $40 million in fund balance the county would recapture from a sale and you’re up to roughly $50 million in cash.

    The county could use those proceeds and abate the entire annual debt service levy for X amount of years and when existing bonds become callable, the county should pay them all off, further reducing the levy burden on tax payers.

  5. Occam, and others, Yes doing that and relieving some of the tax payers burden may actually save some households from having to move due to the highest taxes in the COUNTRY.

    I still am trying to wrap my head around the fact that we’re 29th out of 3144 counties for highest real estate taxes.

    No wonder people are leaving in droves.

    We should also sell off some of the Conservation areas.

    How many parks do we need?

    We need relief more than we need places to hike.

  6. Care for the elderly has changed dramatically.

    Journey Care (palliative care & hospice care) has beds in the hold Woodstock Memorial Hospital building (which is next to Woodstock High School) where they transition their hospice patients that are no longer able to stay at home.

    There is no sustainable plan at current taxation and service levels to pay for the pharmaceuticals, medical treatment, and healthcare of the baby boom generation as they age.


    Ironic that an agricultural giant such as Illinois and the United States has replaced working poor farms with shelters and food stamps.

  7. The Mr. Walkup quoted above states: “I think it is reasonable to assume that many voters were focused on the construction of a new building and may not have given much thought to the fact that they were authorizing an ongoing obligation for staffing and other expenses over and above what might be garnered from the state and federal governments.”
    This is the same Mr. Walkup who just tried to get a referendum on the ballot for Township Consolidation. A referendum he fully supported. A referendum which was put forward with the ‘promise’ of $40,000,000 in tax reductions. A ‘promise’ NOT supported by any facts.
    IMHO we do not need people like Mr. Walkup on the County Board and certainly do not need him as Chairman.
    Mark, as usual, hits the nail!

  8. Mr. Walkup commented else where: “Can anyone tell me the last time there was a contested election in AL Township for Road Commissioner?”
    Mr. Walkup: Do you not live in Algonquin Township? Will you file to run for Road Commissioner in Algonquin Township in 2017 to put an end to your complaints about nepotism?

  9. Walkup is flailing about, desperately looking for a full time paycheck now that the ambulance chasing isn’t working.

  10. Concerned:

    I live in Nunda where I helped kick Charles Nelson out as Supervisor.

  11. Not knowing County Board Member Michael Walk-up or his voting record, I think he should be commended for stating his honest views on Valley Hi elaborating in detail and for putting his other views on this blog. I wish more elected officials would participate on this blog as Michael does. Some of us, like me, live on the Eastern End of McHenry County making it difficult to attend Board meetings and our best means of keeping informed about county issues is through this blog.

    I think those who engage in personal attacks on anyone do a great disservice to those who take these issue seriously and are trying to obtain facts and offer solutions to what are sometimes complex and multiple faceted problems. Personal attacks and imbecellic jeuvenile remarks discourage open and honest discussion. Where has civility gone and tolerance for those with dissenting views.

    Charles your cheap shot of calling Michael an “ambulance chaser” because apparently he possesses a law degree says more about you than Mr. Walk-up. One day it may be that lawyer which saves your bacon from an injustice. Maybe you would like to offer your credentials on this blog so we can all make a chuckle at your expense.

    Again, I commend Mr. Walk-up as an elected official boldly referring to Valley Hi as a “white elephant” consuming an extraordinary amount of taxpayer resources with a challenging future ahead. It should give us all pause to think about what to do. To me Chuck, this is no laughing matter!

  12. David:


    btw: “Walkup” is all one word.

    It means: “valley of the foreigners” in Scots celtic. The original spelling was “Wauchope”.

    It referred to the border area near England.

    If your name was “John” and you were from that area, you became known as “John of Wauchope”.

    Some family members claim direct descent from William Wallace, who was also from around there.

    It was anglicized at some point after the arrival of some of the original family members in the 1720s’.

    But we digress.

    Back to Valley Hi, anyone?

  13. Sorry Mr. Walkup and thank you for the origin of your name.

    I think discussion about William Wallace and McHenry County government taxation (which includes Valley-Hi) involve the same subject matter “FREEDOM” from oppressive government who at anytime can take your home if you do not pay an exhorbitant land tax.

    The King of England wasted tax collections on endless wars and McHenry County elected royalty waste in on bloated government programs and oversized government with lavish benefits.

    You see, the Scots and residents of McHenry County do have something in common except the Scots had William Wallace making their case for freedom and McHenry County has the likes of Chuck Nelson making ours.

    And readers of this blog wonder why the Scots are now free and residents of McHenry County are not . . .

  14. Elections are tough things, Rat.

    You lost an unopposed election to a write-in candidate.

    Too many people know you.

  15. On the AL township Road District front, someone who has some sort of road construction or contracting background should run in 2017 on the platform that he/she will phase out the AL Road District within 4 years.

    There was an excellent map of the township roads produced during the consolidation meetings and Cal may have a picture which he could put up.

    When you look at it you will see, in contrast to the AL Township Road District website map, that about 90% of the “township roads” in AL township are actually curvy streets in various isolated subdivisions that never annexed into their adjacent municipalities.

    The location and access points of these subdivisions are such that no one would be driving on them unless they lived there or were visiting or servicing someone who lives there, yet the other 98% of the population of AL Township is paying for the maintenance of those streets while the residents of the unincorporated subdivisions are not paying also for the municipal streets.

    Add to that the fact, also disclosed in the consolidation meetings, that AL Township is spending $21,000 per road mile per year while the rural townships are paying $2600.

    Are they paving them in gold?

    Meanwhile, where are the AL township Board Members who agreed to pay $4 Million per year for that” Road District”?

    Why aren’t they looking more critically at that budget?

  16. I don’t see a separate space to contact Cal Skinner…

    But while I admire the attention brought to the nursing home… I’ve learned of a HUGE, sad and very serious issue in McHenry county.

    The Mental Health Board is trying to shut down and separate the programs at Families ETC in Crystal Lake.


    They are a one stop shop for ALL family oriented resources and my family would be lost without them.

    From the Parent Mentor (Tina Karaway) handling my son’s IEP to FETC hosted NAMI meetings where I have been able to meet and connect with not only other parents who know my struggles but find mental health resources for me and my family.

    I can’t keep going on about everything they have helped my family achieve, as well as soooo many other families in the county.


    Mr. Skinner…

    Please go see Families ETC in action tonight at the Dole Mansion…

    Talk with the staff. Talk with the parents!!!

    Please help us get the word out and put our foot DOWN against agendas that take away from our community’s health and wellbeing! 5pm…

    I’ll be there to support!

    Come see what these beautiful selfless people are about!

    Save our children’s resources!!!!!

  17. Looking to grab some gold, Mr. Walkup?

    When I was fighting the George Ryan Culture of Corruption (Jeff “Roadrage” Ladd, Al Jourdan, Jack Schaffer, and Mike Brown), you and you little friend Provenzano and a notorious tax cheat got me thrown off the ballot.

    Provenzano got a part time job for his somewhat unemployable wife and has been trying to get a full time job for himself, since his job as a busboy for Snap-On was eliminated.

    After a career as a Democrat, you have become a Republican only because you lust after a government paycheck, and even the Democrats wouldn’t have anything to do with you.

  18. Charlie:

    My lust after a paycheck must be why I ran for and was elected to the CL Park District Board where I served for five years with NO PAY, and why I also moved to reduce the salary of the County Board Chair, which was defeated by the Board majority.

    Since you have raised the issue, why don’t you tell us exactly what you did as Township Supervisor that justified a salary of around $60K, plus full benefits and pension?

    How much time did it take to throw most of the 24 public assistance applicants that you had PER YEAR out the door and tell them to go find a job?

    How much time does a Supervisor spend per applicant where that Supervisor has a staff person (who is also paid around $60K)?

    That’s $120K for the two of you.

    At 24 applications that is $2000 per application.

    Assuming that they are not handed a copy of the want ads from the newspaper and summarily shown the door, I would not expect the whole process to take more than 20-30 minutes of the Supervisor’s time where there is staff support.

    So, in the course of an entire year at Nunda that is maybe 10 to 12 hours by the Supervisor?

    One hour per MONTH.

    15 minutes per WEEK.

    What did you do for the other 39.75 hours in the week?

    Go to lunch?

    Glass houses, Charlie.

  19. When I assumed office, there were 3 full-time employees.

    When I left there was one, and one part timer.

    The cost of the audit was $17000/year; it was $4000/year after.

    The internal controls I put in saved that money.

    I cut the welfare cheaters out by requiring them to perform workfare; almost none returned after the assignments were made. And I referred several for job opportunities.

    Democrats like you, Mr. Wakup, hate the implementation of workfare.

    I lowered the General Assistance levy each year and forced the Board not to raise the Town levies.

    When I assumed office, I found that Mrs. Sherwood had over $100000.00 in interest free money in a local bank at almost all times.

    With Mr. Davorak’s help, we uncovered that that bank had made loans to the a business which she had invested in, under emergency circumstances to prevent a major loss in assets.

    Democrats like you and Hillary seem to like this kind of government action.

    I used my finance training to get competitive rates on all township invested money.

    No one has ever done better in Nunda Township.

    Unlike your allies, I never hired any family members for Township jobs, or cut any deals to elect any of them to political office.

    I was active and visible in the community is many other activities to an extent unheard of in Township government.

    I took a pay cut to serve, and now I make twice what the Supervisor makes as a private sector CPA.

    And that, Mr. Walkup, is why you were so afraid to run against me in an election.

  20. Charlie:

    That must be why the Board members who had all run with you on a slate turned against you and threw you off the ballot for re-election.

    It’s too bad that your lawyer screwed up the court filing or it would have been overturned and you could have taken your case to the voters.

    I think you should be blaming him, not everybody else.

    At any rate, I would like to see some type of time accounting from a Supervisor or former Supervisor so we could see what exactly it is that they do, especially if they are not spending time distributing public assistance, which most of them cite as their main function.

    Perhaps you could provide some insight here.

  21. If you wanted the case brought the voters, why did you get Remsing to file the objection in the first place? (He told me so.)

    Stop lying, Mike Walkup.

  22. You are just bitter Charlie.

    That was an objection filed by the GOP against you running as an Independent versus John Heisler who had won the Republican Primary.

    You elected not to file in the Republican Primary.

    You would have won in court and been on the ballot had your lawyer bothered to read the Election Code and follow the correct filing procedures.

    Get over it and move on.

    Why don’t you continue with your original efforts to expose waste and corruption in Township Government and work with those people today who are trying to do the same?

    I am sure you have a lot of inside information that would be valuable.

  23. There is a story about a village where everyone is walking around weighed down by huge stones that they have strapped to their backs.

    They are all starving because they are in too much pain and too tired to work in the fields.

    Then a stranger comes into the village and sees them all weighed down by their stone backpacks and asks what those are for.

    It is discovered that the stones are the grudges that each person carries, for various slights real and imagined, and which get bigger and heavier with each passing year.

    Once the villagers realize that they don’t have to carry their grudges around, they throw them off and are able to be happy again and work their fields.

  24. Mike you keep misrepresenting Alg twh roads, primarily who uses them and volume of traffic.
    We know why, to get rid of a political opposition to some of your nonsense.

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