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Case of defunct nursing home lands in court

(ran PC edition)

It's been vacant for more than a year. Now any remaining value left to what was once a long-running nursing home has landed in court for creditors to pick at.

The last 21 residents of the former Pasco Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on Dade City's Fifth Street moved out in 2001 when plans to rebuild the business failed. The building has been empty since.

Last week, the Tennessee company that put up a $1.8-million loan foreclosed, taking the case to Circuit Court, along with letters from the former operator indicating that there will be no resistance from the bankrupt owners.

The nursing home was an oddity during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Naomi and Otis Jones ran it as the Jones Nursing Home from the early 1960s until the mid 1970s. The home is thought to have been among the first in Pasco County to serve white and black residents together.

Otis Jones died in 1992. Mrs. Jones was honored in February by Pasco-Hernando Community College's Center for Excellence with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award, the center's highest honor. She died in October.

Her nursing home went through several owners, ending up in the hands of NewCare Nursing Corp., a Georgia company that bought the facility in 1998 with the help of municipal bonds endorsed by Dade City. Then the company sold the nursing home to a nonprofit group called Chamber Health Care Society.

It was managed by another company, Georgia-based Wellington Health Care Services.

NewCare filed for bankruptcy, Chamber never got the bond money that was supposed to help renovate the facility, and Wellington closed the nursing home in June 2001, Wellington's attorney, Philip Rees, wrote in a letter to lender Sentinel Trust Co. of Nashville.

Sentinel is still owed $1.79-million, plus $65,000 in interest, the company's attorney, Ginni Van Kesteren, wrote in the foreclosure suit.

Rees explained in a letter to Sentinel that NewCare never turned over bond money that could have helped Chamber rebuild the facility, and Florida regulators wouldn't extend licenses long enough for the closed nursing home to find new lenders and expand so that it could compete.

In his letter, Rees offered to help Sentinel get back at least some of its money.

No court date had been set as of Monday.

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