Despite vocal opposition from employees of the county nursing home and families of residents there, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday created a local development corporation to manage the sale of Maplewood Manor.
The supervisors’ meeting room in the county center was overflowing with people interested in the vote, and about a dozen spoke against the move toward privatization.
Six of the 25 county supervisors present voted against the plan to create the corporation — which will include five supervisors and two others from the private sector — to manage the sale of the 277-bed facility at 149 Ballston Ave.
The supervisors have studied the issue for months and hired professional consultants to study the building that has been losing between $8 million and $10 million per year for several years.
The consultants told the supervisors to keep the nursing home open but sell it to a private entity to run it.
Dorothy Tyler of Saratoga Springs said employees of Maplewood Manor and families who have loved ones there have created a group called Citizens Advocate for a Sustainable Maplewood Manor. This group wants to know if the supervisors will guarantee that the buyer of the nursing home will not discharge existing residents.
“What if the new facility fails or goes bankrupt? What happens to the residents?” Tyler asked.
Steven Mitchell of Malta, a nursing home employee, said the main concern is for the residents of the nursing home. Mitchell said he also has a family member there.
“The statewide trend is counties selling their nursing homes. Buck the trend,” Mitchell said to loud applause.
Kathy Garrison, president of the Capital Region CSEA, said the vote to create the local development corporation to manage the sale of Maplewood Manor “is a very sad day for Saratoga County.”
“County residents have been shut out of the process, ignored, and disrespected,” she said. “It is the CSEA’s sincere belief that creation of an LDC as a way to divest the county of Maplewood Manor is a huge mistake that will have long-lasting negative consequences.”
After the more than one-hour public comment period, Northumberland Supervisor William Peck said that he was at first against forming the local development corporation to manage the sale of the nursing home. After months of discussion and reports from consultants he became convinced this was the best way to transition the facility to a private entity that could operate it more economically.
He said selling the nursing home to the private sector will ensure the “long term viability of the nursing home.”
Peck will be one of the five supervisors on the seven-member local development corporation board of directors. The others are Saratoga Supervisor Thomas Wood, Stillwater Supervisor Ed Kinowski, Mechanicville Supervisor Thomas Richardson, and Hadley Supervisor Arthur Wright. All are Republicans except Richardson. The LDC board will also include former Saratoga County public heath nursing service director Helen Endres and former Malta Supervisor David Meager.
The members of the board will be unpaid volunteers. Peck noted that the resolution passed Tuesday stipulates that the local development corporation will be a public body subject to the state’s Open Meetings law.
The supervisors also scheduled a public hearing for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 9 to hear comments on a second resolution that would authorize the sale of the nursing home, according to agreements entered into between the county and the LDC.
This resolution would initiate the LDC’s management of the sale process while the county continues to operate Maplewood Manor.
Voting against the creation of the LDC were Moreau Supervisor Preston Jenkins, Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth, Milton Supervisor Daniel Lewza, Corinth Supervisor Richard Lucia, Saratoga Springs Supervisor Joanne Dittes Yepsen and Day Supervisor Mary Ann Johnson.
Jenkins said he was “not comfortable” with the way the project is being financed. Southworth said she thinks the county should seek an alternative plan.
Lewza said the supervisors should try to work out another way to cut spending at the nursing home. “We shouldn’t support another layer of shadow government,” he said.