Essex County has received final offers from two of the three parties who want to purchase the Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown.
County Manager Dan Palmer said the Centers for Specialty Care in the Bronx increased its bid to $4.05 million while the Elliot Management Group of Monsey in Rockland County submitted a final offer of $4.1 million. Gerald J. Woods CPA in Nassau County did not submit an additional bid.
All three parties submitted bids of $4 million in March; last week, the county's Board of Supervisors called for best and final offers as it continues to debate whether to sell the nursing home.
Roby Politi, I-North Elba: 'This is the one opportunity where we can have it both ways': to keep the nursing home and get it off the taxpayers' backs.
(Enterprise file photo)
Palmer said the Horace Nye Nursing Home Task Force will meet Monday to set up visits to private nursing homes operated by the three bidders "to tour them and see how they operate."
He added that Gerald J. Woods CPA is still in the conversation even though the group didn't increase its bid.
"No final decisions have been made to eliminate anyone," Palmer said. "It's not necessarily the highest price that we're going to accept; we want the one that has the best value for Essex County but also is the best for the residents that have to use the facility."
Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava told the Enterprise that the increased bids don't make a difference to him.
"I'd still be opposed to the sale if it was $10 million," he said.
Scozzafava added that no one really knows what the facility is worth because it's never been appraised.
"They're just throwing numbers out there," he said. "In a town, if you're going to sell a piece of property, you're supposed to have appraisals done."
Palmer said the sale of the nursing home is not subject to permissive referendum, which means a public vote will be held if enough people petition for it.
"It has to be related to some kind of regulation or rule; you can't just do what is essentially an opinion referendum," he said.
Palmer said the county could send out information about the potential sale and conduct a straw poll, but such a poll wouldn't be legally binding.
"If you held one, and the board decided to do something different, they could still do it," he said. "All you'd be doing is ticking people off one way or another."
According to Palmer, a private sale would be subject to a permissive referendum. He said if supervisors had approached a single buyer and hammered out a deal, then taxpayers would have a right to weigh in.
But Horace Nye is a public sale. The facility was advertised nationally by Chicago-based real estate investment firm Marcus & Millichap and was also listed in newspapers across the region. Palmer said other counties, like Fulton and Washington, have gone through the same public process to sell their nursing homes.
Scozzafava said he understands the county is under no legal obligation to hold a permissive referendum, but he added supervisors could hold an "advisory referendum."
"We need to hear from everybody," Scozzafava said.
North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi heads up the Horace Nye committee. Speaking at Tuesday night's regular town board meeting, he said he's elected by his people to make decisions on their behalf and that taxpayers in his town don't want to continue bearing the burden of a nursing home that loses between $2 million and $4 million annually.
"It's my job to know how they feel, and I'm confident of that," Politi said. "I would think he (Scozzafava) could do the same."
Politi said the county has an opportunity to keep a nursing home in the region and save tax dollars.
"This is the one opportunity where we can have it both ways," he said. "You go the other way, and it's a short amount of time until it will have to be closed. That's not a logical conclusion."
Politi noted that 40 percent of the employees at Horace Nye come from the town of Moriah. He said if that were the case in North Elba, he might be hearing a different message from his constituents.
"I'd probably be subject to the same pressure Scozzafava is subjected to," Politi said.
Scozzafava said the county hasn't done anything to "turn around the operations at that facility" to try to save money and make improvements.
He said other county facilities, like the jail in Lewis, lose money as well but aren't singled out like the nursing home.
"And how many residents from Essex County are benefiting from North Country Community College, if you want to look at it in that light?" Scozzafava asked. "Can we afford $2.6 million annually for them?"