Berkshire Healthcare Buys Nursing Homes for $30M

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Williamstown Commons has been purchased by Berkshire Healthcare.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Willowood Extended Care Services, a subsidiary of Berkshire Healthcare Systems, has purchased three nursing facilities it operates through a $30 million tax-exempt bond issued by Massachusetts Development Corp.

North Adams Commons, Williamstown Commons and Fairview Commons in Great Barrington will join the portfolio of Berkshire Healthcare, the largest nonprofit provider of skilled nursing services in the Berkshires. The company also owns Hillcrest Commons in Pittsfield and owns or operates 13 other facilities in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Lisa Gaudet, vice president for business development and marketing at Berkshire Healthcare, described the purchase as "a natural progression." 

"We've been involved with the operation of these facilities for so long, when the opportunity presented itself ... with the support of lenders we were able to put together a financing package," she said.

The properties had been part of Willowood Inc., one of several companies established by the late Arthur J. Ivey, who owned a number of nursing care facilities in the Berkshires. Ivey died in 2007.

Willowood Extended Care has been operating the three nursing homes for the past decade. Gaudet said the purchase wasn't an indication of a change in operation but rather an opportunity to continue working with its current staff, providers and clients.

"I think it was just a question of timing and [Ivey's] estate looking to transfer ownership to the operators who had operated these facilties in a very positive manner," she said.

BHS took possession on the properties on Dec. 29, 2010, with the aid of MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority, which helped put the financing structure together.

The state agency issued the tax-exempt bonds that were bought by TD Banknorth with Berkshire Bank participating.

"Skilled nursing facilities are invaluable for those with rehabilitation and long-term care needs," said MassDevelopment President and CEO Robert L. Culver. "WECS represents a key provider of this type of care in Berkshire County, and this tax-exempt financing will ensure the organization can continue to meet the needs of patients."

Kelsey Abbruzzese, spokeswoman for MassDevelopment, said the bonding amount was not unusual. "The bond amounts range depending on the size of the project, the kind of project," she said, and projects must be credit-worthy and fill a public purpose. "Berkshire Healthcare Systems ... that's a great public purpose."
A bond is not a loan; however, the participating bank or banks can purchase it tax-exempt and pass the savings on to the borrower, in this case Willowood Extended Care.

Most recently, the agency issued $14.5 million in bonds for 300 units of affordable housing in Leominster and $1.4 million in industrial development bonds to help Mayhew Steel Products in Montague build an addition. During fiscal 2010, MassDevelopment financed or managed 238 projects in 104 communities across the state generating investment of nearly $1.4 billion in the Massachusetts economy.

"This financing structure advances our strategic interests in Berkshire County and will enable us to continue to invest in effective and necessary post-acute and long-term care programs and services for the residents of this community," said William C. Jones, executive vice president of Berkshire Healthcare. "We are grateful to MassDevelopment, TD Bank and all of the professionals engaged in this financing project for the support and confidence they have in us."
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PHS to Determine Reopening This Weekend

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With cleanup ongoing, administrators will decide this weekend if Pittsfield High School will open Monday after a water line break.
Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said families will receive a call Sunday letting them know whether or not school will reconvene Monday.
"We are optimistic," McCandless said Friday.
The school was dismissed early Thursday after a pipe burst causing water damage in the building.
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