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January 31, 2013

Plan to keep Manor faces doubt, scorn

A plan aimed at derailing the privatization of the Otsego Manor nursing home was dealt a setback Monday when Otsego County Rep. James Powers — who heads a key committee on the county board — pronounced the proposal dead on arrival.

Powers, R-Butternuts, argued that the proposal outlined last week by Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, is unworkable and unaffordable — and amounts to an act of “grandstanding” by its architect.

“To raise people’s hopes with this kind of grandstanding is really poor representation,” Powers said of the Kosmer proposal.

Powers, who is the chairman of the county board’s Negotiations Committee, which handles labor contracts with unionized county workers, said he had no intention of convening his panel to discuss the proposal.

Kosmer has indicated that the first step of his multipronged plan would be a new round of labor negotiations intended to convince the union to make significant concessions that could help reduce the county’s spiraling public subsidy for the 174-bed Manor.

If the union agreed to givebacks, the plan calls for county residents to then be polled on whether they would support raising the current state and county combined sales tax rate of 8 percent to 8.25 percent. If county residents backed the sales tax increase, legislation authorizing the hike would then be pushed at the state Capitol.

Powers said he objected to the sales tax increase.

“That money would be coming out of Otsego County residents’ pockets, when they are broke already,” he said. “I don’t know who he thinks he’s kidding. But he’s not kidding me.”

He noted Kosmer was among the representatives who last fall voted in favor of privatizing the Manor.

“Now he wants to be the hero,” Powers said.

Kosmer said he does not believe that the opposition from Powers will prove fatal to his proposal.

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