ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex County Board of Supervisors will explore the sale and/or lease of the Horace Nye Nursing Home.
A resolution introduced last week by North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi passed the full board Monday morning. It lets county Manager Dan Palmer execute a real estate brokerage agreement with Chicago-based firm Marcus & Millichap for the potential privatization of the county-operated facility.
Supervisors passed the resolution as about 20 patients and employees from Horace Nye looked on.
Patients and employees at Essex County’s Horace Nye Nursing Home display signs outside the courthouse in Elizabethtown on Monday, calling on supervisors to not privatize the facility.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"It's incumbent upon us to look at everything," said Supervisor Cathy Moses, R-Schroon.
The county must close a $13 million budget gap in 2012 in order to meet the state's 2 percent tax cap. Noel Merrihew, R-Elizabethtown, said Monday's vote was in no way a condemnation of the nursing home's quality of care.
"The game has changed in relationship to our reimbursement with federal and state agencies," he said, referring to reduced and deferred Medicaid payments. "It's an unfortunate situation that is making us at least gather this information."
County Attorney Dan Manning told the Enterprise the sale or lease of Horace Nye would be subject to conditions named by supervisors and himself. He said the resolution entering into a brokerage agreement doesn't bind the county to any payments to Marcus & Millichap - for now.
According to Manning, the firm would receive a commission if the nursing home is sold or leased. If supervisors opt to keep the facility and not privatize, the county would have to pay some $146,000 for the firm's services.
"You don't want to sign a listing agreement with a broker and agree to pay that sum and just leave it blank," Manning said. "Because you have conditions you want met prior to sale. We'll sit down, put that together, talk to the broker, which is an expert in these things, and then we'll bring it back to the board and they'll decide."
Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava voted against the resolution. He said privatization wouldn't impact the 2012 budget because the process would be lengthy. He also said he has 100 reasons why the county shouldn't close the home, referring to the patients.
According to Scozzafava, private nursing homes "cherry pick" patients.
"They want private pay," he said. "Most of our nursing home residents are Medicaid. What's going to happen to these people?"
Politi said the county has made poor leadership and business decisions at Horace Nye over the years, and now is the time to get out of the nursing home business. He said he won't consider the possibility of laying off 10 percent of the county's work force when there are some 145 full-time and part-time employees at the nursing home that could be moved to the private sector.
"It's a difficult decision," Politi said. "Some 85 percent of our budgeted appropriations are either mandated or statutory. We have very little room to make cuts or changes."
According to Politi, the nursing home runs at a $3 million annual loss, and it owes the county's general fund about $5 million.
County Board Chairman Randy Douglas, D-Jay, said supervisors are elected to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. He said the nursing home on its own may not cost individual taxpayers a lot, but other big-ticket items add up. That includes $288,000 for the fish hatchery, $750,000 in pay increases for unionized workers, a $1.2 million shortfall in social services and a $550,000 decrease in home health care.
Manning said supervisors will have to consider current employees and patients at the nursing home when they put together the terms and conditions for privatization.
"There need to be considerations regarding the labor force," he said. "There's lots of things we have to talk about."
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.