Photo by George Lauby
Pawnee Hotel lobby
Financial pressures will force the closure of the troubled downtown Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel, effective Sept. 1. Thirty-seven residents and 12 employees will be affected, manager Sandy Schade said Thursday.
The hotel serves people with behavioral and emotional disabilities, providing single rooms – something rare in mental health care, making it a good fit for many residents.
The operation has struggled for years to make ends meet. The struggle became apparent a year ago during inspections by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, which showed problems with sanitation, maintenance and record keeping. In October, HHS revoked the assisted living license pending an appeal, but the license was restored in March after no further deficiencies were found and employees made a good faith effort to improve.
But in the meantime many of the residents moved out. The hotel once housed about 70 people, its capacity.
Schade said it has been a difficult decision to close. The hotel has served people with behavioral and emotional disabilities for nearly 20 years. Schade has worked there for 23 years.
She said the structure of the 84-year-old-hotel is solid but utility lines, windows and the elevator are badly worn. Fewer people have the knowhow to keep the elevator maintained, she said. Drain pipes clog frequently. The bathtubs do not have overflow protection when absent minded residents forget to shut the water off.
Schade and her staff have battled the circumstances, including financial pressures that sometimes made paychecks late. During the last year, Schade has skipped her own paycheck about half the time.
Schade said employees and residents were notified early this week that assisted living care would no longer be offered. Each resident’s guardian is being notified.
Residents who require assisted living care will have to find other places. A handful of them are candidates for independent living and could remain at the hotel, along with a couple employees, but that is yet to be determined.
Schade will devote time and effort to reorganizing the operation in hopes of continuing as an independent living facility, with an eye toward reopening for assisted living in the future.
She said there are no places between North Platte and Scottsbluff that provide assisted living mental health care.
“The need is always there,” she has said often.
In 2007, the Pawnee Assisted Living Corporation was created to own and operate the building, taking over from Bob Parsons and his California-based management company.
Parsons was losing money at the Pawnee. He first sought financial assistance from the city and finally turned the hotel over to local operators in exchange for paying overdue property taxes of nearly $75,000. Local investors stepped forward with emergency funds and the new board of directors was formed.
Schade became the director of operations, after working there for nearly 15 years as a departmental director.