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January 10, 2013

Otsego Manor inches closer to sale

(Continued)

She said county officials want to see “a seamless transition” with “minimal impact on patients and minimal impact on employees.”

A leader of the grassroots effort to keep the home in county hands, Maureen Culbert of Springfield, a veteran volunteer at the Manor, said she remains skeptical of claims that privatizing the home will not jeopardize patient care.

“The are just going to be cutting personnel, and that is not something you want to do with a nursing home,” Culbert said.

Culbert said she is not giving up on her campaign to convince county board members from exploring alternatives that would allow the nursing home to remain an asset of county government.

“It belongs to the county residents,” she said. “The board should find the money and find a way to make it work.”

Her local representative, Keith McCarty, R-Springfield, said he would an increase in the county’s share of the sales tax, bringing it from 4 percent to 4.5 percent, as one way to raise revenue that could forestall the privatization of the Manor.

“I’m not throwing the Manor under the bus yet,” said McCarty.

However, Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, the chairwoman of the Board of Representatives, said she will not back any calls for boosting the sales tax. She argued such a move would make businesses less competitive with rivals in nearby counties and thus have a negative impact on Otsego County finances.

Mark Lavigne, spokesman for the state Association of Counties, said several counties have already privatized their nursing homes and more are considering the option.

“These are difficult decisions that county officials don’t want to make,” Lavigne said. For many counties, he said, running nursing homes has become financially unsustainable, and county officials have been forced to consider privatizing them because they are a discretionary program, one that is not mandated by the state.

Clark said there is no firm deadline for privatizing the Manor.

“The process evolves,” she said. “I don’t want to put a date on it.”

Culbert maintained the board has failed to adequately explore options other than selling the home.

“Where is the Plan B?” she asked. “What if they don’t find a suitable buyer?” 

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