Las Vegas Sun

September 15, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Boarders getting rent help from county coffers

A former group home whose license was revoked by Clark County continued to irk neighbors, University Medical Center introduced plans for an advertising campaign to remake its image and Commissioner Tom Collins — a frequent critic of the Sun’s reporting on the county — proposed charging the Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal for office space at the county government center.

In short, it was another eventful week in the annals of Clark County government.

About that group home, a Sun story last week said the owner now is running it as a boarding house and renting rooms to homeless people. If the tenants are homeless, how are they paying rent?

A logical question. The ironic answer: Clark County is helping.

Dedicated readers will recall that back in March, the county yanked the business license of Eagle Ridge Manor, a group home for seniors and people with mental illnesses on a residential cul-de-sac in the northwest part of the valley.

The revocation came after neighbors of the home complained about break-ins, a sex offender living at the facility and other alleged trouble.

But after losing the business license, the owner turned the home into a boarding house. Some neighbors say problems have continued and one of the home’s tenants died of an apparent prescription drug overdose this month.

The problem for the neighbors is that boarding houses, unlike group homes, do not require business licenses or visits from regulators.

Now it turns out the county is helping to fund Eagle Ridge Manor’s new enterprise. In the past three months, the county has provided $2,400 in rental assistance to tenants who list their addresses at the home.

Needless to say, some neighbors aren’t pleased.

“It amounts to a homeless shelter,” said Joyce Sportsman, who lives two doors down. “I blame the county for allowing it to be in my neighborhood.”

The home’s manager said only two formerly homeless individuals are living at the property, in addition to herself and another family member.

County spokesman Dan Kulin said the county doesn’t dictate where social service clients use their rental assistance. Needy individuals who qualify can receive a $400-a-month rent subsidy from the county for up to three months a year.

What can we expect from the county hospital’s extreme image makeover?

UMC officials want to spend nearly $1.2 million on a multifaceted marketing campaign.

The hospital hasn’t done any advertising for the past year, in part because of its financial troubles and the exit of its former chief executive, Lacy Thomas, who was indicted in February on five counts each of theft and misconduct of a public officer. Police say he steered lucrative contracts to friends in Chicago. Thomas has denied any wrongdoing.

The proposal comes after a survey of the community’s familiarity with UMC and its various services. One of the findings: Opinion of UMC has become less favorable over the past 12 months.

The marketing strategy would drop the use of the hospital’s slogan, “Symbol of Excellence,” which was crafted during Thomas’ stint.

Under the plan, the hospital would spend $580,500 to revamp its image generally. The rest of the money would be used to promote specific services, including UMC’s chain of Quick Cares, its bariatric (weight loss) program and its cardiology program.

Hospital officials say a 1 percent increase in paying patients would produce an additional $3.9 million in revenue for the hospital.

Commissioners are to decide at their July 1 meeting whether to fund the marketing campaign.

Speaking of marketing and publicity, what’s up with Collins’ proposal?

The county provides the Sun and Review-Journal with closet-sized offices just outside commission chambers in the name of open and transparent government.

Collins regularly disagrees with the Sun’s coverage of county government and, on more than one occasion, has given a certain Sun reporter verbal lashings, the full contents of which are not suitable for publication.

After voicing his dissatisfaction with the Sun’s coverage again at Tuesday’s commission meeting, Collins suggested a departure from the longtime tradition of providing reporters with small offices at the government center.

“I think we should start charging rent for that room if we’re paying for the newspapers we bring into the building,” he said.

The proposal, which Collins made during a marginally related discussion on advertising UMC job postings in the Review-Journal, didn’t go anywhere.

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