The Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown.
While we have already stated we agree with the move to privatize Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown (Horace Nye: it’s time to sell, April 7 edition), we do believe that Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava has a valid point: there should have been a public meeting on the matter.
During the May 29 Essex County Ways and Means Committee meeting, supervisors were deadlocked in a resolution offered by Scozzafava, a staunch supporter of keeping Horace Nye as a county-operated facility, to hold a public informational meeting before a final vote was cast.
Nine supervisors voted for the measure, while the other nine (Elizabethtown’s Margaret Bartley, Board Chairman Randy Douglas of Jay, Keene’s William Ferebee, Newcomb’s George Canon, Board Vice Chair Roby Politi of North Elba, St. Armand’s Joyce Morency, Ticonderoga’s Deb Malaney, Westport’s Daniel Connell and Wilmington’s Randy Preston) voted against, leaving Scozzafava to mumble a question we tend to agree with.
Why would any elected official ever vote to not allow the public to speak on something?
In Washington County, supervisors held a series of public meetings on the sale of their county-owned nursing home facility and public health programs. Not only did they hold public information meetings at the county seat in Fort Edward, but they held them in other locations throughout the county. Eventually, they voted to enter into contract negotiations with Fort Hudson Health Systems out of Fort Edward.
A public information meeting would allow the Horace Nye Task Force to go out into the community and present their findings to residents of the county, findings that led to a recommendation (not a resolution, as Scozzafava tried in vain to contend during the May 29 Task Force committee meeting) to sell the facility to Centers for Specialized Care.
Meetings could be held at the county seat in Elizabethtown, the Lake Placid Conference Center, the Keeseville Fire Department, the Ticonderoga High School auditorium and Minerva Central School.
These meetings would remove what appears to some as a shroud of secrecy over the whole process. At a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried to make local government more transparent, the Essex County Board of Supervisors appears to be less in voting not to hold a public meeting.
We know there is an argument that the time would only be taken up by upset employees or over-zealous supporters, but this is where a strong meeting leader uses their gavel to ensure that meetings remain civil, on point, and within a time limit (say, two minutes per speaker and 30 minutes for public comment, allowing at least 15 people to make their fellings felt). Those who do not respect the rules need to be deemed out of order and removed from the site.
This is not new turf for the county board. In their most recent controversy, the 2012 Essex County Budget, the board held a public hearing. While the state says a public hearing on the budget is required, they also took the extra step of holding the meeting at night in order to accommodate more people, something they did not need to do.
The second thing that a public meeting would have done is clear up any of the misinformation out there. We feel that the Horace Nye Task Force and subcommittee have done their due diligence in looking at the potential buyers and stand behind their recommendation to sell to Centers for Specialized Care. We feel that a public hearing would put more people at ease over the issue than the current course of not having one.
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