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County to hold Whispering Pines auction today

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Jefferson County today will auction off the contents of the Jefferson County Home for the Aged, also known as Whispering Pines, to help offset the cost of demolishing the building sometime later this year.

Eddy’s Auction Service, Watertown, will be conducting the public auction, which will take place at 10 a.m. at 1240 Coffeen St.

Prospective buyers can inspect items two hours prior to the sale.

An extensive list of available items is available at http://wdt.me/DdMySv and includes everything from industrial kitchen equipment to a Wurlitzer organ.

“You never know what you’ll find,” said Laura C. Cerow, commissioner of the Jefferson County Department of Social Services.

On the eve of the auction, two long-time employees reflected on their years at the home.

Christal L. Deline, the former nursing supervisor, worked at the facility for 14 years, and Yvonne M. Pike, the former business officer, worked at Whispering Pines for 24 years before moving over to the Department of Social Services five years ago.

“It was an amazing time, I think we both agree on that,” Ms. Deline said.

Ms. Pike said that it was both the staff and the residents that made the home unique.

“But the residents first and foremost,” she said. “For a lot of them we were family.”

Now that makeshift family has been broken up, with residents and staff headed in opposite directions.

In April, approximately 45 Whispering Pines residents boarded buses for their new home at Samaritan Summit Village, a new 230,000-square foot complex located off Washington Street.

And, after staying on for two weeks to help clean out the facility, staff also departed, some to uncertain futures.

As the county moved out of providing adult care, it reduced full-time staff at the facility.

Near the end of 2012, only 15 full-time county employees remained, down from 30.

Faced with the loss of their seniority and benefits, a group of Whispering Pines employees petitioned the Jefferson County Board of Legislators at a meeting in November to find places for them within the county system.

Ms. Deline was one of the lucky ones who landed a job with the county. She now works in the Department of Social Services monitoring the medical records of children in foster care.

Two of the 15 remaining employees retired, one found a job with a local school district, and three others — in addition to Ms. Deline — stayed with the county.

Eight employees were laid off when the home closed in April. A 16th employee, who had not shown up for work for several months, was also technically laid off, according to Mrs. Cerow.

After helping residents pack and watching the final bus depart for the state-of-the-art facility, Ms. Deline said she and other staff took a break from loading trucks with belongings and sat outside in shock.

“There were tears and silence,” Ms. Deline said.

Walking back into the building was a strange experience, Ms. Deline said.

“It seemed smaller. It was no longer full of life,” she said. “Now it’s just full of stuff.”

The county has set aside $250,000 to demolish the building, according to County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann. The bidding process has not yet begun on the project.

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