New private owners will take over Saratoga County’s Maplewood Manor this weekend, ending years of debate about the cash-strapped nursing home’s future and tens of millions of dollars in county taxpayer subsidies for it.
The sale will also end an era of publicly provided care for the infirm or elderly that goes back to the early 19th century, when Saratoga and other counties across New York operated “poor houses.”
The Maplewood Manor Local Development Corp. on Thursday voted to finalize the planned sale of the Ballston Avenue facility to Zenith Care Health. The sale has been pending for more than a year.
The real estate closing paperwork is likely to be signed Monday, but the transfer of operations will be retroactive to Sunday morning, LDC Chairman Arthur “Mo” Wright said.
Finalization of the $14.1 million sale will end a tumultuous three years following the county Board of Supervisors’ decision to sell the infirmary, which had been losing millions of dollars a year under county ownership — draining nearly $30 million in county surplus funds and prompting property tax increases from 2011-14.
County officials continue to maintain they had no choice but to sell.
“Maplewood can continue to exist only if it is a financially sustainable facility that has the ability to make investments in resident care,” County Administrator Spencer Hellwig said in a statement Thursday.
County supervisors made the decision to sell the facility because of its costs in 2012. After negotiating with potential buyers, they selected Zenith Care Health of Westchester County to purchase it in December 2013.
The state Department of Health, which had to review and approve the sale, gave its final blessing in early January, but a potential glitch arose earlier this month when Zenith’s attempts to reach a labor deal with Maplewood employees represented by the Civil Service Employees Association failed. Rank-and-file union members rejected a proposed deal negotiated between Zenith and CSEA leadership that would have included cuts in pay and benefits, as well as job reductions.
A Zenith spokesman said at the time the pay cuts and job eliminations were needed for the facility to stop losing money once Zenith took over. The spokesman could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Wright said the county wasn’t involved in those negotiations.
“The employees who have chosen to go with Zenith will remain in place,” Wright said.
A flurry of talks between the county and Zenith over the last few weeks have led to the sale going forward despite the union’s opposition, county officials said.
A number of Maplewood employees have left or retired over the last year because of uncertainty about the facility’s future. The roughly 240 remaining employees received layoff notices from the county earlier this week.
CSEA spokeswoman Therese Assalian said it’s too early to know what will happen under Zenith’s ownership.
“This is the beginning of a transitional period,” she said Thursday. “CSEA is assisting Maplewood Manor employees at every step to make certain they are aware of the procedures and their rights.”
Of the $14.1 million sale price, the county received $2.1 million when the deal was signed in 2013. Hellwig said another $2.1 million will be paid at the closing Monday, and the balance will be paid over the next four years as specific benchmarks are met.
Much of that money will be set aside to cover the future retirement costs of the Maplewood employees, Hellwig said. Those costs are estimated at nearly $2 million per year.
Zenith, which operates other nursing homes in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, has said it will be investing $2.5 million in modernizing Maplewood’s facilities. It will operate the facility — which now has 277 beds — as a 257-bed nursing home.
The Maplewood LDC, which was set up in 2012 to hold the property while the county prepared to sell it, is expected to transfer the property to 149 Ballston Ave. LLC, a real estate holding company that will then lease it to Saratoga Center for Care, a newly formed Zenith company.
Hellwig said the county had no choice but to sell Maplewood Manor, given the losses it was experiencing.
“The county has made it clear that privatization is the only viable option for the future of Maplewood Manor, other than closing the facility down,” he said.“Zenith has a track record of success at their other facilities, a commitment to Maplewood’s residents, and a solid plan to improve the facility and provide excellent care.
“Transitioning Maplewood to Zenith is the only way this facility can stay open.”
Dozens of public nursing homes across New York state had been privatized in recent years because Medicaid payments for residents’ care haven’t covered the cost of operating the facilities.