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February 14, 2013

Manor activist sees glimmer of hope

A woman who has gathered more than 1,800 signatures on petitions urging that Otsego Manor remain a public nursing home said Friday she is not throwing in the towel, even though most county lawmakers want to pursue privatization. 

“I’m not losing hope,” said Maureen Culbert of Springfield, a volunteer at the 174-bed facility just south of Cooperstown. “I still think there is hope for Save the Manor.”

Culbert said her optimism is based on the fact that six members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives signaled this week they were willing to consider a plan that would have determined whether county residents supported raising the sales tax to 8.25 percent from 8 percent.

The goal was to combine the additional tax revenue with savings from proposed contract concessions with unionized Manor workers.

Culbert contended that while board members insist they will not sell the home to an operator who puts profits before patients, they have not spent any time devising a “Plan B” if a suitable buyer does not emerge.

“We need them to be working together on that,” she said. “The only plan we have heard has been from Kosmer.”

Culbert did note that Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Springfield, had previously gone on record in support of a sales tax increase to stave off privatization. 

She said she was particularly encouraged that Rep. Donald Lindberg, R-Worcester, the first board member to call for privatizing the Manor, sided with the Kosmer plan. Lindberg said he was most interested in finding cost savings by renegotiating the contract with the union.

Eight of the 14 county representatives, however, voted down Kosmer’s plan. Some argued that the sales tax gambit was doomed because state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, had indicated it stood no chance of winning approval in Albany.

On Friday, the state Association of Counties sent an advisory to county board clerks statewide, alerting them that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had told the Watertown Times newspaper that he was open to approving increases in local sales tax rates if the proposals were supported by county boards and the Legislature.

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