The Ramsey County Board voted Tuesday to close the county-owned nursing home, citing the changing marketplace for senior care and millions of dollars in operating losses.

The Ramsey County Care Center on White Bear Avenue in Maplewood is one of two county-owned nursing homes in the state, with 95 residents and 130 employees.

The board voted 6-1 in support of closure with Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt voting against, saying she'd like to explore more options to keep it open.

Other commissioners said closure was the best option.

"It is not an easy decision, but leadership is often not easy when we have to make hard choices for our community and our residents," said Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo.

The Board directed County Manager Ryan O'Connor to return to a future board meeting and "present a fully developed plan outlining options for all impacted employees."

State statute requires the county to help all residents find a new place to live. The county also needs state approval to close the facility, which will determine if there are enough beds at nearby facilities. County leaders have vowed to help employees either find other jobs in the county, retire or find outside employment.

It is expected to take four to six months to close the nursing home.

The care center reported nearly $11 million in operating losses between 2012 and 2020. Last month, the county transferred an additional $3.4 million to the care center to cover its budget gap for 2021. The facility has an $18.4 million operating budget.

Ramsey County hired an outside consultant in 2019 and tried to shore up the business by adding more single rooms and improving its marketing. The COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating changes to senior care, including more at-home and assisted living options, thwarted those efforts.

The number of Ramsey County Care Center residents has dropped by more than 40% in the past decade as seniors seek out facilities that offer an array of services including independent and assisted living as well as skilled nursing care.

Commissioner Jim McDonough said it's clear that seniors, including his own mother, uncle and aunt, are choosing different options.

"None of them have chosen to be in an institution. All have chosen to age in place or be in a facility such as assisted living that has a continuum of care," McDonough said.

O'Connor recommended closing the facility last week. Staff examined selling, leasing or closing the facility and determined closure was the best option.

Commissioners acknowledged the decision was agonizing, but said they feel they can better serve more seniors in other ways.

"This is not fun. This is torture," said Commissioner Nicole Frethem. "I hate hearing the pain we are going to cause to specific people in the community."

Frethem said she had no confidence that the county could make the senior care center competitive again.

"It's the least bad option to close," she said.