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November 8, 2012

Otsego clerk threatens to cease services

(Continued)

By the end of the meeting they had reduced the budget gap by more than $1 million, Crowell said. But that still left a deficit of $1.9 million.

Potential cuts discussed by the representatives include taking one job from the county clerk, two Sheriff’s Department road patrol positions and one each from the public defender’s office, the highway department, the health department, the buildings department and the code enforcement office.

Crowell said he will be meeting with the county’s department heads over the next few days to help the board evaluate where cuts could be made.

He said he was sympathetic to Sinnott-Gardner’s effort to shield her office from any job cuts.

“None of them are going to be easy decisions,” Crowell said. “There is nothing else we can cut that is not going to have an impact on services.”

Driving the difficult choices the board will have to make by Crowell’s Nov. 15 deadline to craft a balanced spending plan are the escalating costs at the Manor, the 174-bed county-owned nursing home that the board has decided to try to sell to the highest “responsible” bidder.

The public subsidy for the Manor in the coming year is projected to rise to $5.6 million. If the board does move forward with the plan to sell the facility, the transaction would likely not occur for more than a year, Crowell said.

The discussion by county lawmakers meandered from one suggestion to another on ways to trim the costs of various departments, and no firm decisions were reached.

Among programs being weighed for possible cuts or elimination were those providing meals to senior citizens, which is not mandated by the state.

Rep. Donald Lindberg, R-Worcester, who has long advocated the privatization of the nursing home, said he would prefer to eliminate jobs from code enforcement, the road patrol and the secretary’s job in the county Planning Department before targeting any more programs serving elderly citizens.

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