Lawmakers established the local development corporation and appointed the seven-member board tasked with taking over operating the Albany County Nursing Home, but some supporters were less than enthusiastic.
The Albany County Legislature approved creating the nursing home LDC by 27-10 at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 10, with votes split across party lines, and appointed its board of directors. The finalization of the LDC was seven months after the resolution was sent to the Special Committee on Elder Care. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy wanted to privatize the nursing home to remove its burden on taxpayers, but legislators offered forming an LDC as a compromise.
Some Democrats voting in support were still unsure if forming the LDC was the best option.
“I don’t know if this is the right answer or not … but it is better than sitting back as we have been for the last year and a half doing nothing but arguing,” said legislator Gilbert Ethier, D-Cohoes. “I am not wholeheartedly in favor, but I think it is a step in the right direction.”
Legislator Mary Lou B. Connolly, D-Guilderland, said she was giving the proposal “a chance” and hoped it would work as she envisions.
One nursing home supporter viewed the LDC as the best option remaining, with continuing as-is off the table.
“We would of course prefer … that the legislature oversees it,” said Renee Barchitta of the Albany County Nursing Home Core Family Council. “If it comes to either selling it … or closing it, then we support this wholeheartedly. We think it is the best out of those three options.”
Barchitta said she called most of the proposed board members and was “very impressed” with their qualifications and “concern” for residents. She said most supported keeping county employees.
The LDC Board of Directors was formed through the legislature chairman and majority leader, with each of them selecting three members and the minority leader selecting one member. The board members include Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Emeritus Frank Mauro, BlueShield of Northeastern NY Regional Medical Director Kirk Panneton, the Rev. Kenneth Doyle, former City of Watervliet Mayor Robert Carlson, City of Cohoes Comptroller Michael Durocher, former Albany County Department for Aging commissioner Judy Coyne and University at Albany Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy professor Kevin Bronner.
Legislator Bryan Clenahan, D-Guilderland, said he supported forming the LDC because he believes it would maintain his goals of keeping county employees, running the home effectively and efficiently, and continue allowing all patients “regardless of their ability to pay” or the severity of health issues to be served.
“I vote for this on the assumption that the seven people being appointed to the LDC board share these goals,” Clenahan said. “If they end up not supporting these goals, then I will ask for their resignation.”
Legislator Deborah Busch, R-Knox, spoke against the resolution on behalf of the minority caucus.
“The resolution before us tonight does not meet our expectations for the LDC,” Busch said. “It was our original understanding that we would experience some type of relief from the nursing home’s current fiscal burdens. … However, the vague and incomplete nature of this resolution does not provide us with any ability to assess if this is the case.”
Busch said the minority conference feared passing the resolution would result in “virtually writing a blank check,” because the resolution said the LDC would assist with the “ongoing operation” of the nursing home.
Legislator Richard Mendick, R-Selkirk, said several financial studies on the nursing home reveal the same issues regarding the levels of staffing, compensation and benefits.
“As we talk about continuing to have county employees at their current wages and level of benefits, and we are going to continue to pay for those losses, it seems like we completely ignore all of the analysis that has been,” Mendick said.
Legislator Gary Domalewicz, D-Albany, disagreed with Mendick and viewed approving the LDC resolution as a “win-win” for everyone.
“We are taking the first step in moving forward and creating a viable environment for the residents out there and the workers of Albany County that work at the nursing home,” Domalewicz said. “I still believe we should be building a new nursing home somewhere down the road, once we get this nursing home up and running in the proper manner that it should be.”
McCoy, while pleased progress is being made, said the LDC should have been formed several months ago. He continued saying the county “shouldn’t be in the business” of running the nursing home, but agreed seniors must be protected.
“I know we need that safety net and we need to be there, but people want tax relief,” McCoy said. “We have to be there in their time of need and do things differently and be thinking creatively.”
He said there isn’t time for any more delays and it can’t wait another year to transfer options to the LDC.
“This should be up to the Health Department in the next 30 to 60 days,” McCoy said. “In order to achieve a property tax cap again for next year, we have to achieve different things for savings.”
This story has been corrected to include Kirk Panneton’s current employer. His previous job was inaccurately included as his current position. Spotlight News regrets this error and any confusion it may have caused.