Free coffee called benefit

County supervisors refused to approve a plan Monday that would have provided free coffee at the coun

County supervisors refused to approve a plan Monday that would have provided free coffee at the county Residential Health Care Facility.

Under the proposal, the county could have accepted a contract with Canteen Food Services that would have given free cups of coffee to staff and visitors at the nursing home but removed the county’s 10 percent commission on all vending sales.

That commission is equal to about $300 per month, officials said.

Instead, the supervisors voted to approve the contract with about $3,600 in annual commissions — and no free coffee.

Supervisors who supported retaining the commission said they were concerned about fairness to all county employees and tax implications of the free coffee.

“It’s probably something that should be negotiated,” said Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan. “It’s a definite benefit.”

Gloversville County Supervisor Marie Born disagreed, citing long, mandated shifts for medical care workers who may not have brought enough money to work to buy coffee on a double shift.

“I was a nurse and I know what it’s like to work those long, hard hours,” she said.

A total of 13 of the 19 supervisors present voted for the plan that did not include free coffee. Each supervisor’s vote is weighted based on the number of people they represent and the final tally was 368-111.

“It was about fairness to all the employees,” said Johnstown Supervisor John Callery. “What about the non-coffee drinkers?”

Nursing home administrator Ernest Gagnon said he was disappointed with the board’s decision not to go with the free coffee plan.

“They work hard,” Gagnon said. “If it’s a way to keep them going, it seemed like a good idea.”

The nursing home has about 170 patients and 250 employees. Its annual budget is about $3 million, with funds coming mostly from federal, state and county tax money, Gagnon said.

The nursing home has several vending machines that sell food and beverages.

Each cup of coffee costs $1, according to Gagnon.

Free coffee would be useful not only to staff working long hours but also to family members of sick patients who spend hours with their loved ones, Gagnon said.

“It’s not the same as your other county office buildings,” Born said. “I don’t think [$3,600 per year] is going to make or break the county, but it could do a lot of good for the morale of the staff.”

“My concern is being fair to all the employees,” Callery said. “It’s not the free part I’m concerned about.”

Supervisors who supported the free coffee plan in addition to Born were Todd Bradt, Ephratah; Michael Gendron, Gloversville; Richard Handy, Johnstown; David Howard, Bleecker; and Robert Kane, Caroga.

The contract that was approved runs through July 2010 with an option for two two-year extensions if both the county and company agree to extend it.

Categories: Schenectady County

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