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February 21, 2013

Ruling and vote clear air about Manor

The Daily Star

---- — Dilemma.

Often used to describe a big problem, its proper definition is the choice between two unpalatable choices. Hence the phrase: “horns of a dilemma,” meaning that no matter which of a bull’s two horns gores you, it’s going to hurt.

That is the situation in which the Otsego County Board of Representatives found itself regarding the future of the Otsego Manor nursing home.

We believe the reps would love to keep the 174-bed Manor as a county-run facility. Residents and their families generally have good things to say about it, and you never know what’s going to happen if it comes under private ownership.

However, the nursing home is projected to cost the county $5 million that it doesn’t have.

Therein lies the dilemma. The county doesn’t want to sell it, but it can’t afford to keep it.

It didn’t help things when the board sneaked in a vote in September to sell the Manor. Last week, a state judge vacated that vote because, he said, the representatives violated the state Open Meetings Law.

So, while the judge’s ruling ostensibly brings the board is back at square one and gives it an opportunity to do things right, the reality is that the reps have decided to sell the facility.

“The county is going to go broke if we keep it,” said Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, on Tuesday.

Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, has fought valiantly to find a way — almost any way — to keep the Manor a county-owned entity.

Kosmer had suggested renegotiating the contract Otsego has with the Civil Service Employees Association — the union representing more than 200 Manor workers — and having a vote to raise the county’s total sales tax from 8 percent to 8.25 percent.

But Tuesday, after the county’s Manor Committee voted, 3-1, (with Kosmer the only dissenting vote) to privatize, he knew the battle was lost.

“There is a difference between advocating for something,” Kosmer said, “and trying to beat a dead horse.”

The Manor Committee will hold a series of “informational meetings” with the public to explain its reasoning. The first will be March 16 in Worcester. That will be followed by meetings in Cooperstown on March 23 and in Oneonta on March 30. All of the 90-minute sessions will begin at 1:30 p.m. at venues to be selected. Other meetings are to be held in April.

As painful as the outcome may be, there is at least now a measure of clarity with the judge’s decision and the Kosmer plan no longer muddying the waters. The facility’s future may well be a big problem, but at least it is no longer a dilemma.