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March 5, 2013

Board weighs Manor options

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County officials have begun researching the possibility of working with a local development corporation to assist in marketing the sale of the Otsego Manor nursing home to a private buyer.

Officials said the county has been in discussions with a representative of the law firm Harris Beech, which is also a consultant for some other upstate counties endeavoring to sell subsidized public nursing homes.

Once a local development corporation is created, it would assist potential bidders in evaluating the 174-bed nursing home. Saratoga and Orleans counties are among counties that have formed an LDC in moving plans forward to privatize the public nursing homes in those counties.

Meanwhile, the Otsego County Board of Representatives has scratched a resolution on its agenda for its meeting Wednesday that would have again authorized the privatization of the Manor.

Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, the chairwoman of the board’s Manor Committee, said a Harris Beech representative is expected to brief the board on its potential options for privatizing the Manor. Stuligross said there are other options beyond forming an LDC, and they are expected to be explained at the briefing.

“We want all the facts we can possibly get,” she said. “We’re going to learn a whole lot more on Wednesday.”

Opponents of the privatization plan, led by Maureen Culbert of Springfield, have been planning to turn out at this week’s board meeting in an attempt to persuade the representatives to table the resolution calling for the home’s privatization. The grassroots group, which calls itself Save the Otsego Manor, argues the quality of patient care at the Manor will decline if a private company takes ownership.

The group is urging the county to consider options such as increasing the local sales tax and getting unionized Manor workers to agree to contract concessions as ways to reduce the growing subsidy the Manor receives.

The board had also been expected to debate a resolution calling for the repeal of the New York SAFE Act, controversial gun legislation pushed through by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the Connecticut school massacre in December. However, that agenda item has also been scratched.

Democrats have said they would prefer to amend the Cuomo legislation, arguing that it is unrealistic to expect Albany to repeal the measure. Some representatives suggested the gun law debate is being postponed because of the scheduled absence this week of Rep. Pauline Koren, R-Milford.

Koren wields the most weighted votes — she has 626 — on the panel. Her absence could potentially tip the balance to Democrats, who hold seven of the 14 seats on the board although the GOP has the majority of weighted votes when all members are present.

Both the nursing home plan and the gun legislation are expected to come before the board again later this month when it is tentatively scheduled to hold a mid-month meeting March 20, officials said.