A resident of the Horace Nye Nursing Home listens as members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors talk about the sale of the facility June 5.
The Horace Nye Nursing Home will be privatized.
In a heated meeting that was interrupted several times by members of the audience, the Essex County Board of Supervisors voted by a two-thirds majority, 2,683-1,233 (weighted vote), to sell the county-run nursing home to Centers for Specialized Care for $4,050,000 at its June 5 regular board meeting.
Supervisors voting for the sale of the home included Jay Supervisor and Board Chairman Randy Douglas, Charles Harrington of Crown Point, Margaret Bartley of Elizabethtown, William Ferebee of Keene, David Blades of Lewis, Sue Montgomery Corey of Minerva, George Canon of Newcomb, Roby Politi of North Elba, Joyce Morency of St. Armand, Deb Malaney of Ticonderoga, Daniel Connell of Westport and Randy Preston of Wilmington.
Moriah’s Tom Scozzafava, Gerald Morrow of Chesterfield, Sharon Boisen of Essex, Ronald Moore of North Hudson, Michael Marnell of Schroon and Ed Hatch of Willsboro voted against the sale.
Horace Nye Sale resolution
BE IT RESOLVED, that pursuant to County Law Section 215(5), the Essex County Board of Supervisors has determined that because of the present economic climate existing within Essex County, the State of New York and the United States of America, the continued strain of unfunded mandates, the 2 percent property tax cap, and the loss of approximately $2,000,000 annually, in order to preserve and benefit the corporate property of Essex County entrusted to the Board, the County of Essex cannot continue to sustain these losses without suffering severe economic repercussions and, in this regard, has determined that further maintenance of the County Nursing Home is no longer in the best interest of the County and that the Horace Nye Nursing Home is not necessary for viable public use; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Essex County Board of Supervisors hereby authorizes the sale of the Horace Nye Nursing Home, its real property, physical facilities, personal property and other assets pursuant to County Law Section 21 5(5)(6) to the highest responsible bidder, Centers for Specialty Care, for the sum of $4,050,000 pursuant to the terms and conditions contained in the Notice of and any and all further conditions determined by the County Attorney, and further authorizes the Chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors and/or the Essex County Manager to execute any and all contracts of sale, deeds, bills of sale, asset transfer paperwork and any and alt other paperwork necessary to effectuate the complete sale of the Horace Nye Nursing Home, its real property, physical facilities, personal property and other assets to the Centers for Speciality Care.
This resolution was duly seconded by Supervisor ,and adopted, upon a two-thirds vote.
Between the board, the most heated exchanges were between Scozzafava and Douglas as they debated the timing of the vote.
“I can't believe that this resolution, the most important one we will ever undertake, would not be online as a resolution,” Scozzafava said. “This goes against the objective of the Open Meetings Law so that things like this could not get railroaded through.”
“Nobody is railroading anything,” Douglas replied. “You have brought resolutions from the floor that were not on the agenda.”
“We have just moved this right into this body,” Scozzafava continued. “We have declared this surplus, we have decided that it is not needed and we are going to sell it in one step. We should have had the discussion about declaring that property surplus a long time ago. This should go through the committee process.”
“You didn't want this to go through committee last week, or everyone would have a copy right now,” Douglas responded.
Bartley, who supervises the town that is home to Horace Nye, said she felt the sale was the best way to ensure that a nursing home would remain in the community.
“It only takes 51 percent to close it,” Bartley said. “I will always look for ways to keep a nursing home here and improve it. I will never vote to close it. If we do not sell it to a company that is competent, then it will be closed by the county.”
Bartley then pointed the finger of blame for the “failures” of the nursing home at the board.
“I know that there are 18 supervisors here that will vote on this, but I am the only one that it affects,” she said. “I blame the failures of the Horace Nye Home right here on this body, and I have no confidence based on what I have seen that this body can ever run it right.”
Several other supervisors also spoke before voting, stating their opinions on the sale.
“I have for a long time realized the cost of the Horace Nye Home plus other costs,” Morency said in support of the sale. “I strongly feel that the sale of the home will be in the best interest of our residents.”
“I believe this is an opportunity for improved quality of life and will better insure the quality of care there,” Deb Malaney added.
“I've looked at that property and I am against selling the nursing home,” Marnell said in voting against the resolution. “I am against selling property that is next to the county because we may soon need it.”
“My belief that the sale of this nursing home should be our last resort,” Moore stated.
This is a very long process that we have gone through and not one that we have taken lightly,” Corey said. “I believe that we are all approaching this from a principled place. I do not believe that the county has the resources to make the changes that are needed at Horace Nye.”
“The system here is broken and it needs to be addressed,” Politi said. “Governments should not be in the nursing home business. We have heard from the subcommittee made up of our own peers, none of whom had an agenda that concluded there was an alternative that works. This is an opportunity to keep the home as well as to benefit all of the taxpayers of Essex County.”
“It is difficult to support selling the home when I feel the county has not done its due diligence,” Boisen said.
“I have supported the sale since the beginning,” Ferebee said. “The biggest concern my constituents have come to me with was they feel the care at the home has decreased. After the presentation, I feel the quality of care will be just as good as it is now.”
“The committee had questions if the sale was the right way to go, and they came back unanimous,” Connell said. “I feel the real concerns that I had were addressed.”
“It's important that we represent the best interest of the taxpayers of Essex County,” Blades said. “I do support the sale. I have a lot of great respect for Horace Nye, but I still have to support what my head thinks is in the best interest of the county.”
“I have always supported keeping Horace Nye,” Morrow said. “No one has ever come up to me and said that they are tired of paying taxes on the Horace Nye Nursing Home. It is sad that we are here today.”
Harrington, who had not made his feelings known on the matter until the meeting, said that he felt the county would still meet the needs of the elderly even after the sale.
“I want you to think of all the senior services that we do provide and we will continue to willingly provide,” he said. “All of these have been put in place for the quality of our senior citizens. We have always invested in our elderly and we always will, whether we sell the nursing home or do not, we will continue to provide.”
“I do not believe that the quality of care is going to be diminished by selling the home,” Douglas said. “I believe that privately, it can be run better. We need to stop the leak, and the leak is growing.”
Tensions in the chamber
The meeting started with the introduction of Keene resident Stan Oliva, who spoke against the sale and called for a countywide referendum.
“I am calling for a countywide vote to be put on the ballot to decide once and for all the fate of the Horace Nye Nursing Home,” Oliva said. “You might be surprised how many of us would be willing to pay a little more to keep this open.”
“It is not legal in the eyes of the state of New York to put it on a public referendum for this. We cannot do this,” Douglas said.
Blades said that while he agreed with not having a vote, he felt a public meeting was needed.
“I believe that a public forum is something that should have been done,” Blades said. “I think we would have gotten different information then what we have been hearing already had it been done.”
During a recess prior to the vote, Willsboro resident Barbara Paye shouted out her feelings to a packed Old County Courthouse.
“When you silence the voices, even those who are in favor of selling, you have lost every step of a democracy,” Paye said. “This is absolutely disgusting. Every single one of those supervisors who vote to sell will live to see this travesty for the residents of Essex County.”
The meeting was interrupted several more times, with Douglas warning people that they would be removed.
“The board has a job to do, and we are going to do that,” he said.
Corey said that she was upset over some of the “name-calling” used by those who were against the sale.
“It surprises us that any of us that support the sale of the home have been tagged as immoral,” Corey said. “That really bothers me. It troubled me that people said that those on the tours had already made up their minds, and that is just not the case.”
“This ended up way out of hand emotionally,” Connell agreed.
“This has been a very polarizing situation for all of us,” Blades said. “I am sure that there's going to be some hostilities when this is all said and done.”