By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star
---- — The second in a series of three public meetings to explain the Otsego County Board of Representatives’ plan to privatize the Otsego Manor nursing home will be held 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.
The first session was held March 16 in Worcester, and the final one will be at 1:30 p.m. April 6 at Oneonta High School.
The turnout for the first meeting was about 20, not including board members, said Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, chairwoman of the Manor Committee for the Board of Representatives. She said she wasn’t certain how many to expect at the upcoming meetings but the board is doing all it can to publicize the sessions, she said.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Clark will lead Saturday’s meeting for Stuligross because of health reasons.
County representatives are reviewing a variety of options for marketing the 174-bed Manor to a private operator, including forming a local development corporation that would manage the sale.
The format during the sessions is based on Stuligross’ experience with the League of Women Voters. All questions must be submitted in writing during the meeting.
“It’s the best way to cover all the topics” in a way that everyone can understand, Stuligross said. There were questions about whether this violates the state’s open meeting laws, but Stuligross said the chairman of the state agency that oversees this said it’s fine because it’s an informational meeting.
Maureen Culbert of Springfield, who started a grassroots group called Save the Manor to fight the privatization plan, said she was at the Worcester meeting and expects to attend the Cooperstown session.
People should show up to register their complaints if they are against the sale, she said, adding that the format isn’t appropriate because it appears the board has already made up its mind.
“We have invested in that building,” Culbert said, “and the people should be allowed to be heard.”
During the meeting, a lot of ground was covered in explaining what has brought the board to this point in the decision-making process, including all the options considered and why the sale is necessary, Stuligross said.
Financial concerns are driving the action she said, adding that it costs the county more than $8 million annually to run the facility, and efforts are being made to ensure privatization will maintain the quality of care at the Manor.