Maureen Culbert of Springfield, the organizer of a grassroots group called Save the Manor, said she was disappointed that the board remains bent on privatization and has made no effort to initiate negotiations with the Civil Service Employees Association. Such a sitdown, she said, could yield new savings for the county.
“What a joke,” she said of the board members, arguing privatization will lead to a severe decline in the quality of patient care at the Manor. “These people would do more research in buying a car for themselves than they have done on this.”
Culbert also labeled the public meetings being organized by the Manor Committee “a sham,” adding: “I hope people show up in force at those meetings.”
She specifically criticized Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, arguing that as chairman of the board’s Negotiations Committee he “is costing the county money” by not inviting the union to the bargaining table.
Powers said it was “unrealistic” to expect the union to agree to concessions that would drastically cut wages for its members. But even if the union did agree to accept cuts that, for exampled, converted a $16-an-hour job to a $9-an-hour job, Powers said, it would still not bridge the funding gap that has created a financial burden for the county.
“You’re going to force a lot of people out of their homes if you raise property taxes, 25, 30 or 40 percent,” he said.
Earlier, many Save the Manor advocates streamed into the county courthouse to urge the board to pursue ways to keep the facility county-owned. Karen Carpenter, a CSEA representative, cited a 2011 report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in arguing that local development corporations have been criticized for lack of transparency and taking actions without being accountable to local residents.
“We urge you to avoid this trap,” Carpenter said, adding the board should spend more time listening to suggested solutions for the Manor’s financial woes. “You shouldn’t use the public meetings to sell the public selling of the Manor.”