Albany County legislators are examining the county-run nursing home issue with a new focus, advancing plans to form a local development corporation after sparring for months with Albany County Executive Dan McCoy over his proposal to privatize operation of the home with Upstate Services Group.
At the monthly legislature meeting Monday, July 8, lawmakers approved hiring Downstate nursing home administrators Lowell Feldman, Martin Liebman and Larry Slatky to work on the process. If the LDC is approved, Slatky would be the day-to-day operator of the Colonie facility and work on ways to raise money for the home, legislators have said.
The legislature also voted to move $2.4 million from a contingency fund to keep the nursing home afloat through the end of August.
Before the meeting, McCoy took legislators to task yet again for not pursuing the USG deal. McCoy has said the 10-year-lease agreement with USG would save the taxpayers more than $80 million and urged the legislature to “end the stall tactics” and vote on his proposal. The nine-month battle with the legislature has cost the taxpayers $1 million each month, McCoy has said.
“We have done our work and I believe the lease agreement with USG is the best option,” McCoy said in a statement. “The legislative proposals run counter to everything we’ve been doing to protect the residents, the taxpayers and live up to our responsibility.”
Some lawmakers are urging McCoy to move ahead with the LDC plan, but McCoy has said he is bound by a contract with USG and cannot legally negotiate with anyone else, including the Feldman party.
Legislator Tim Nichols, D-Latham, said working with the firm would be a “great opportunity to forge a compromise” in regard to the nursing home.
“This commonsense, middle-of-the-road proposal will bring in a management firm that can help us immediately start saving taxpayer dollars and help us put the nursing home back on a path to sustainability,” Nichols said.
McCoy, a Democrat, accused the legislature’s Democratic majority leadership of having “zero transparency” in advancing the LDC plans, while Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse disagreed, saying the legislature “takes every step possible to ensure transparency.”
Majority Leader Frank Commisso said working with Slatky would be the “best and most responsible option” for the nursing home residents, employees and the taxpayers.
“The county executive should embrace the opportunity to work through the issues that have been plaguing the nursing home, and not keep throwing up roadblocks,” Commisso said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Republican and Conservative minority in the legislature said they had not been given any details on the LDC plans, which were sent to the Elder Care Committee. They also said they were not given any information regarding a resolution that passed to hire an outside law firm, Hodgson Russ, Legislator Rich Mendick, R-Selkirk, said.
Mendick said he was “staunchly in favor of the lease with USG and the privatization of the nursing home,” adding that there was no specificity given as to what the LDC is supposed to do. He said he’s unclear on whether the LDC will take over the home completely, transfer assets or take on employees.
“How they’re going to do that and economically is anybody’s guess,” Mendick said. “That still has to be flushed out.”
Mary Rozak, McCoy’s spokeswoman, said there was “nothing in that resolution talking about fiscal impact” or where the money would come from to pay for operation of the LDC.
Rozak said the contingency fund the legislature has been tapping into doesn’t have enough money to fund the nursing home through December, so a decision on the facility’s outcome needs to be made soon.
“Ultimately, there is going to be an end. We’re running out of money,” Rozak said. “Now there’s even less money. It’s projected that the money in the contingency will perhaps run out as early as October. There’s got to be a resolution.”