Warren County supervisors voted May 7 to move forward with the sale of county-owned Westmount nursing home to Specialty Care Group, overturning a decision just several weeks ago to suspend the pending deal.
Twenty supervisors voted for the measure — including Queensbury Supervisor John Strough and Glens Falls Ward 1 Supervisor James Brock, who previously voted against it. Two others county supervisors, Rachel Seeber of Queensbury and Dan Girard of Glens Falls, who had not been present for the April 18 decision, also voted May 7 to move forward on the proposed sale.
Prior to the Wednesday’s vote, Queensbury Mark Westcott gave a presentation on why the sale should be postponed if not scuttled. He and two other supervisors, Doug Beaty of Queensbury and Peter McDevitt of Glens Falls, had held a public meeting last week detailing their opposition to proceeding with the pending sale and its proposed terms. Reasons presented were that the nursing home’s money-losing cogeneration plant was complicating the transaction, the proposed sale price was too low, that a competing offer wasn’t thoroughly considered, and that Specialty Care hadn’t presented plans developing a health-care campus as the county leaders had suggested.
There were also concerns that Specialty Care, under the proposed contract, could shutter the nursing home in five years, and that a sale to Specialty Care could compromise an ongoing criminal investigation of Seimens Building Technologies, who are leasing the cogeneration plant to the county. They also said the sale could perhaps void the contract with Seimens, causing greater liability to the county.
Their major criticism, however, was that the sale terms required county taxpayers to guarantee Medicaid reimbursement from the state for cogeneration costs, a provision that could cost the county up to $1.26 million.
Strough said that other county leaders had convinced them that the county would not in fact be “guaranteeing” the Medicaid payments, and that supervisors’ input on sale terms would be heeded to protect taxpayers’ interests.
He and other supervisors casting their vote to proceed with the sale said that with Westmount’s operational deficits ballooning recently, taxpayers would shoulder a greater burden in delaying the sale than by proceeding, regardless of whether the proposed sale price was the best obtainable.
“I got assurances from all angles that as we move ahead and construct the contract, all the county’s interests will be protected,” Strough said.
Seeber said that curbing Westmount’s mounting financial losses were a key factor in her vote.
“We’re losing $25,665 per week now at Westmount, and as county leaders we have an obligation to recognize this,” she said, adding that she had assurances that supervisors would be helping determine the terms of the sale.
Brock said that he switched his vote because his concerns that the losses attributable to the cogeneration plant might hamper Specialty Care in providing adequate care for nursing home residents were answered by county leaders. He said they provided him with figures that showed the losses weren’t as great as feared.
Board of Supervisors chairman Kevin Geraghty said he was pleased with the reversal of the vote, as delays in negotiation could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I’m happy we’re able to move ahead now,” he said.