By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — The stage is now officially set for the Otsego County Board of Representatives to vote May 1 on creating a local development corporation in order to sell the 174-bed Otsego Manor nursing home to a private operator.
But first, a public hearing will be held on the plan at 6 p.m. Monday at the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.
On Tuesday, the administration committee of the Board of Representatives voted to recommend the LCD option for selling the Manor. The county’s subsidy to the home has surged in recent years, with officials citing a reduction in government health care reimbursement rates, higher labor costs and pension obligations as among the reasons for the widening funding gap.
The vote by the administration committee means the full county board can determine whether it wants to set up the LCD at its next meeting.
That meeting will be held at 10 a.m. next Wednesday at the Meadows office complex just south of Cooperstown. The Meadows is being used because officials said they believe it can hold more people than the meeting room normally used by the board at the county office building.
A grassroots group that has been trying to dissuade the board from going forward with the planned sale, Save the Otsego Manor, has argued that the quality of patient care is bound to decline once the Manor is privatized.
But Rep. Rich Murphy, D-town of Oneonta, the chairman of the administration committee, said he believes the LDC will strive to find a buyer that will be committed to running the home in a way that does not compromise patient care.
The committee that would control the LDC, he said, would be appointed by the board’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathleen Clark, R-Otego, with input from Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, the chairwoman of the Manor Committee.
“The LDC committee is going to be well-rounded, and will have board members as well as people from the community who have expertise,” he said. “I will have a lot of confidence in this group to find a buyer who will act in the best interest of the county.”
Despite the looming possibility that the home will be privatized, the Manor’s administrator, Edmond C. Marchi, said there has been no sign of an upcoming exodus from the home by its more than 200 employees.
“Some people still don’t believe that it’s actually going to happen,” said Marchi.
He said it remains unclear precisely how much time it will take for a private buyer to take over. But he said it is likely going to be “months and months” for the LDC to send out a request for proposals and then carefully review those proposals once they are submitted.
Once a bidder is submitted, he said, it will take additional time for the state Public Health and Health Planning Council to review an application for a certificate of need that the would-be operator would have to obtain in order to take charge of the facility, Marchi said.
Marchi said the process being set up in Otsego County resembles one moving forward in Ulster County. There, according to published reports, the Golden Hill nursing home in Kingston is being sold by that county’s LDC for $11.25 million to a local group headed by Dr. Anthony Bacchi. It will reportedly take up to 18 months to complete the sale once the certificate of need is awarded.