Portsmouth NH, the city in which I live, has no Senior Center. No Center for arts, recreation, or classes. No Center for groups or clubs. No Center for health screening. No Center for games, dancing, exercise, trips, outings, socializing, no Center for meals – no Center.
Let me also say that I am not a lawyer nor do I want to be. I am still trying to find a lawyer willing, at no cost, to follow the documentation involved in the following transactions.
The current situation, in a nutshell, is as follows. (Details and history follow this list.)
1/ No Senior Center in Portsmouth
2/ Questionable sale of a Seniors Center property for a use not consistent with Warranty Covenants
3/ A possible windfall of $2 million on a property transferred for a $10
4/ No guarantee of any of the windfall monies being used for the Seniors of Portsmouth.
5/ A demonstrably poor management company writing themselves in as management of a new Seniors Center 5 miles from the City Center.
6/ A quasi not-for-profit fee-based company providing fee-based Senior activities with management/ownership by a person on the Nursing Home Board.
7/ More than enough monies to run the existing Seniors Center for many years in the City’s surplus/rainy-day fund.
There used to be a Senior Center, a very good one, right in the center of the City – downtown adjacent to the Public Library, within easy walking distance to the Public Gardens and just around the corner to Downtown shopping. There used to be a Senior Center with a full slate of activities until earlier this year. So what happened?
A brief history. The Senior Center was located in a building deeded to the City, in 1942, for the use of the City’s Elderly and, until the 1970s the building was a residence for many of the City’s elderly. The City owned the building. A past Mayor placed his brother in charge of the Center but his brother defrauded the residents by writing checks on their bank accounts. The brother went to jail and the remaining residents were moved to an adjacent building, The Mark Wentworth Home, a hospice nursing home. The building, now with no elderly residents, still continued its charter by becoming the Portsmouth Seniors Center a wonderful place with a full slate of activities.
In 2009 the management of the Center, and the building, was transferred to the Mark Wentworth Nursing Home for the princely, nominal, sum of $10. The Seniors Center immediately started dropping classes, trips, and events, and started charging for the remaining activities.
At the end of last year, 2011, the management, suddenly and with no warning, declared the center out of money and ceased effective operation as a Seniors Center.
Coincidentally as the Center was “running out of money” a quasi-not for profit business was started up in the greater City Area by a previous board member of the Nursing Home. Some of the activities once held at the Seniors Center were now suddenly part of that business. Each activity requires a fee.
The deeded building, now essentially empty except for a few staff, was then put on the market by the Mark Wentworth Nursing Home (remember the $10 transfer from the City) and is now under agreement and slated to sell, to a law firm, for over $2 million.
The Covenants written into to the transfer of property to the City in 1942 have, apparently, not been removed by probate. In fact the transfer of property to the Nursing Home explicitly states, in the first paragraph of the Warranty Deed, that the property is being transferred “With Warranty Covenants”. The transfer was notarized, in 2009, by the person now buying the building.
At a City Council meeting in April 2012 City Attorney Sullivan reported that the City has reviewed the documents from the transfer of property and there were no conditions in any documents for the continued services and programs of the center. When I spoke with Attorney Sullivan last week he indicated that he had not seen the Warranty Deed from 2009 that included the phrase “With Warranty Covenants”. Available at the NH Rockingham County Register of Deeds Book 4971 Page 1658.
Portsmouth now has no Senior Center. The senior population is 24% of the greater Portsmouth area, and is, according to the latest Census, way above the national average of about 13%.
The City Council just last week voted not include one red cent for Seniors Center into the fiscal 2013 budget. Not one penny. In fact only three of the nine City Councilors voted “Aye” to include a line item for Seniors.
Just two days after that vote the City Manager made public that there was, in fact, an over $10 million surplus in city Funds. The City Council was well aware of these surplus funds prior to de-funding the Seniors of Portsmouth. The City Manager said that those surplus monies were for a “rainy day” and in fact he had already spent some of the money, $600,000, to move the School Management offices from the High School to City Hall.
But, let’s get back to the Nursing Home. The management of the Nursing Home said, at a public meeting this week, that they had “lost a quarter of a million dollars over the last three years” running the Seniors Center…or an average of $830k a year. Although I failed math at an early age, I can safely say that the Seniors Center could have been funded for 7.5 years with the amount of monies used to transfer the school offices from one building to another.
The Nursing Home management group has a new plan, a proposal that they hired an “expert” in Senior Centers to draw up. The plan proposes to locate, and build, a new Seniors Center five (5) miles out of town. The proposed Center would be approximately half the size of the one in the City. It would cost, at a minimum, about $600,000 to build. And would take 2 1/2 years. And no plan for an interim location.
The Nursing Home has, as yet, pledged no monies from their windfall of $2 million from the sale of the City Seniors Center (assuming it becomes legal). What they have have done is, in their proposal, written themselves in as the management of the new Seniors Center…after failing miserably in the management of the previous center, intentionally or not. They have also said that they would contribute “some monies” to the New Center but no specific amount. They have not yet indicated whether they would contribute any amount from the $2 million windfall if they are not made the management arm of the new Seniors Center.
At a public meeting earlier this week the President of the Mark Wentworth Home said that the Warranty Covenants were no longer in effect and showed two documents purporting to indicate that however the documents showed were in fact a transfer of management of the Senior Center from one named not for profit to another named not for profit and it not remove the Warranty Covenants of the original, 1942 Deed.
Original Date of Transfer with Warranty Covenants April 7, 1942 – Rufus Wood Gives his rights to the Home For Aged Women for a Dollar Book 980 Page 276
February 13, 1991 – Home for Aged Women Transferred to Visiting Nurses Book 2866 Page 1688 (This conveys with original restrictions) Book 2866 Page 1684
Transfer of management from one not for profit to another not for profit April 15, 2001 – Portsmouth Regional Health Support Association given to Parrot Ave Connection Seniors, Inc. Book 3578 Page 2128
This is a mortgage document putting a lien on the property to secure a $14 million loan for the Mark Wentworth Home December 13, 2006 Parrot Avenue Place. inc. Book 4744 Page 91
Transfer from Compass Care Management and Portsmouth Housing (Owners of the property) to Mark Wentworth Home January 5, 2009 Book 4975 Page 1658 with the phrase “With Warranty Covenants”