Plans to sell Otsego Manor met with resistance

By Michelle Costanza

April 29, 2013 Updated May 1, 2013 at 12:45 AM EDT

Cooperstown, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Otsego County leaders say a local nursing home and rehabilitation center is bleeding their budget, and the only option is to sell.

Residents say there are other options for Otsego Manor.

The Otsego County Board of Representatives agreed during a Monday public hearing to create a local development corporation with the intention of selling the nursing home to a private operator.

The board said the county's subsidy to the Manor is nearly $5.5 million, which they say is too high to maintain.

The sale is being met with resistance from the public and Manor employees, who are worried that quality of care would deteriorate, experienced staff would be reduced and wages would be cut.

Employees and residents of the Manor were among the attendees at the public hearing Monday. Nearly 20 people stepped up to the podium to address the board and urge them not to sell.

"It is publicly known that private organizations have rarely met the quality of care offered in Otsego Manor. It is also known that the sale of such facilities has often led to less or no satisfactory service," said Mary Marks, of Cooperstown.

Many community members felt the decision to sell was made without public input.

"You didn't ask the public's opinion. You just jammed this thing down our throat. This is wrong. You are hurting the residents," added Otsego Manor resident Ray Harris.

Karen Carpenter, a representative from the Civil Service Employees Association in Albany, said the union is still willing to negotiate and work with the county to save the nursing home and rehabilitation center from privatization, an offer that many said had been previously ignored by the board.

When asked about the process of setting up the LDC, board representatives expressed their regret, but also spoke of the hope to continue the top-notch services the nursing home currently provides.

"We're going to be very careful to whom we sell it. We have to sell it to someone who already has a strong history of providing high-quality, long-term nursing home care, and who is financially secure," said Representative Katherine Stuligross, the chairwoman of the Manor Committee.

Board members will vote May 1 to create the LDC. If the Otsego Manor is sold, it could take nearly 18 months to change hands.