LACONIA — High turnover and the difficulty of hiring new employees led county commissioners to decide last week to privatize the Belknap County Nursing Home kitchen. Since then, three more people have quit.

Nursing home administrator Shelley Richardson said Monday these resignations were made within a couple of days of the privatization decision on Thursday.

“They gave a two-week notice,” Richardson said. “After that time frame, it’s going to be more challenging.”

Although the contractor, Glendale Senior Dining, has pledged to offer jobs to the current staff, those who stay will see a reduction in job benefits.

As county workers, they are in the state retirement system and have zero-premium health insurance coverage. Under the Manchester-based company, they would have to pay insurance premiums and would no longer be in the state retirement system.

The three resignations come at a time when are already six open positions on the staff, and an additional opening is to occur Friday when another person leaves.

The kitchen, which also provides food for the county jail, is run by a salaried full-time manager who presides over an authorized staff of 14 full-time hourly employees and 10 part-time workers. It serves three meals a day to 90 nursing home residents and about 90 county jail inmates.

Neil Smith, contract field agent for SEA/SEIU Local 1984, which represents the workers, did not immediately return a call for comment. Their union contract ran out at the end of last year, and they’ve been working without a contract.

County Administrator Debra Shackett said last week that a meeting will be held with the union to discuss what can be done for workers to ease the transition. Reached Monday, she said the meeting has not occurred yet.

Shackett said Glendale Senior Dining’s contract offer to take over the service is still being reviewed, but the company has also offered to help with labor during the interim period.

“We are going to be short and the new provider has offered to assist in filling those shifts,” she said, adding she was hopeful the new contract could be approved by early next month.

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