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April 18, 2013

County clears way for Manor hearing

A plan to create a local development corporation to handle the sale of the deficit-plagued Otsego Manor advanced last week, setting the stage for what is expected to be an emotion-packed April 29 public hearing on the proposal.

On May 1, two days after the hearing, the full Otsego County Board of Representatives is expected to act on the proposal to create the LDC, a vehicle for selling public properties that, in the past, has been criticized by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli as a type of “shadow government.”

The Board of Representatives’ Otsego Manor Committee recommended that an LDC be created by a vote of 3-1.

Backing the idea of creating the LDC to facilitate selling the Manor to a private corporation were the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Kate Stuligross, D-Oneonta; Rep. Pauline Koren, R-Milford, and Rep. Donald Lindberg, R-Worcester.

They threw their support to the LDC after county attorney Ellen Coccoma explained that the marketing of the 174-bed nursing home could be done with greater flexibility if it were handled by such a corporation.

Coccoma, who has been conferring with representatives of Harris Beach, the law firm advising the county on its Manor options, said the firm recommends creating the LDC as “an effective way to get what you’re after, which is a quality buyer at a price that is fiscally responsible.”

The lone opponent of the LDC pathway to privatization, Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, argued the board would effectively be divorcing itself from its responsibility to ensure that whatever entity takes charge of the Manor will make quality patient care a paramount objective.

“This is exactly the responsibility we should be shouldering,” said Kosmer, who earlier this year framed unsuccessful proposals designed to find new revenue for the Manor and avoid privatization.

Several citizens also spoke up against the LDC proposal, among them Maureen Culbert of Springfield, the organizer of a grass-roots group called Save the Manor, Keith Schue of Cherry Valley and Hilda Wilcox of Cooperstown.

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