By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County officials are preparing for three upcoming community meetings at which they say the reasons behind the controversial decision to privatize the Otsego Manor nursing home will be explained in detail to the public.
“I’m expecting good-sized crowds,” said Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, the chairwoman of the Manor Committee for the Board of Representatives.
Those attending the meetings will be allowed to ask questions, but only by submitting them in writing at each meeting, she said.
The first meeting will be held Saturday at the American Legion hall on Church Street in Worcester. One week later, March 23, the second meeting will be held at the Otsego County courthouse in Cooperstown. The third meeting will be held April 6 in the science wing of Oneonta High School. All of the meetings will begin at 1:30 p.m.
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.
Privatizing the Manor is staunchly opposed by the Civil Service Employees Association, the union for county workers, as well as by Save the Manor. The grassroots group has led a petition drive drawing 2,000 people to say they want the Manor to remain a county-owned property.
“This (Manor privatization) is not something I want to do,” Stuligross lamented. But she said the county subsidy for the Manor — more than $3 million in 2012, representing a significant percentage of the county’s tax levy — is projected to rise to more than $5 million in 2013.
“I get a lot of feedback from the public, and 99 percent of it are people saying: ‘Stay strong, Kay. You’re doing the right thing.’”
Maureen Culbert of Springfield, who formed Save the Manor along with family members of residents of the home, said the battle against privatization will not stop.
“I feel that we are going to take this to the end,” she said. “I really think the board members should ask people what they want, because they are clearly not in touch with their constituents. People would be willing to pay more to keep the Manor. But the board members are going to forge ahead. It’s a disservice to the community.”