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March 7, 2013

Manor plan inches ahead amid outcry

COOPERSTOWN — A parade of advocates for keeping Otsego Manor a public nursing home failed to dissuade the county board Wednesday from moving ahead with authorizing a $35,000 expenditure to hire a law firm that will offer guidance on ways to sell the facility to a private buyer.

The law firm, Harris Beach, has been working with several other upstate counties whose public nursing homes have been buffeted by the same financial shortfalls and rising public subsidies that have prompted Otsego County representatives to consider privatizing the 174-bed Manor.

One of the options suggested by a Harris Beach lawyer who met for about two hours in a closed meeting with board members Wednesday afternoon is to form a local development corporation that would manage the sale of the Manor, according to county officials.

If a local development corporation is formed to manage the sale of the nursing home, the entity would effectively put the county board members on the sidelines for the process, and the effort to sell the Manor would likely be on an irreversible course, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

The lawyer, Shawn Griffin, contacted later by The Daily Star, said he has provided guidance to two counties — Ulster and Onondaga — that are moving forward with plans to privatize their nursing homes. He said another county he has been advising — Lewis — began looking at privatizing its nursing home but has since reversed course.

Griffin said he will be assisting county officials in formulating “question and answer” packets that will be handed out at a series of upcoming meetings that the board’s Manor Committee will hold to explain the nursing home’s situation and options for resolving it.

Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, the chairwoman of the Manor Committee, has said those meetings will be “informational” in nature, and are not intended for citizens to try to change the board’s view that privatizing the Manor is the best course.

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