The home has eight beds. That works out to a cost of $257,000 per bed over the 20-year period. Given that DDS has projected that it will be using the same lease-purchase arrangement to develop state-operated housing for 26 Fernald residents, the total cost of those homes will be $6.68 million, based on the cost of the CIL home.
However, that $6.68 million cost is only part of the actual cost of developing alternative housing to Fernald. There are approximately 140 residents remaining at Fernald. Thus, if DDS were to use the lease-purchase arrangement to develop state-operated group homes for all 140 residents, it would cost $36 million.
You have to start wondering how the administration can continue to claim a savings in closing Fernald and three other state facilities, given the cost of the lease-purchase option they have chosen for at least a portion of the Fernald residents. After all, the administration has claimed that renovating Fernald to keep it open–which they estimate to cost between $14 and $20 million–is prohibitively expensive. But that sounds like a bargain compared to the $36 million cost of developing group homes for all of the Fernald residents.
(The $14 to $20 million estimate, by the way, ignores the fact that Fernald advocates want to develop a smaller Fernald, which would cost far less, and allow the development of the remainder of the property, which would generate employment and taxes.)
That high cost of developing group homes is apparently why the administration is saying that it will provide as many as 84 beds for Fernald and other former state facility residents at the Wrentham Developmental Center. We have not yet seen any cost projections for the renovations that will reportedly have to be done at Wrentham (although we have asked for them). But we would suspect that the cost per new bed at Wrentham would have to be less than $257,000 over 20 years.
But if that's the case and it is cheaper per bed to renovate a state facility than to build new group homes, doesn't that undercut at least part of the administration's rationale in closing the state facilities?
We may never know the answer to that question because the Legislature decided last month that there is no need for undertaking a cost-benefit analysis prior to closing Fernald. Interestingly, Gov. Patrick personally promised Cathi Valeriani, a Fernald guardian, at a town meeting in Pembroke last week that he would see to it that a cost-benefit analysis is done for Fernald. We certainly hope that the governor holds to this promise and that the cost-benefit analysis takes into account the amount that DDS is already spending, and plans to spend, on group homes.
We would note that DDS's Community Services Expansion and Facilities Restructuring Plan projects the development of a total of 268 new state-operated beds for residents of all four facilities slated for closure. By our calculations, that will cost the state $69 million over 20 years. Where are the savings here?