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Concerned Citizens aren’t giving up fight for nursing home

Posted 24 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Editor:

With regard to the State Supreme Court decision announced last week, it seems to me everyoneincluding Chairman Callardshould keep some things in perspective. A good judge can only do what he feels the law allows. In this case, he did not say he approved of it, or that selling Our County Nursing Home was something that should be done. He didn’t say it was right. He said what the Legislature did was legal and nothing more. The law may allow the Legislature to dispose of a 180-year-old county-owned asset without consulting the public. In their “Frequently Asked Questions,” county leaders admit they used the LDC law to avoid dealing with public opinion.

The Concerned Citizens of Orleans County are not going to give up because of a ruling we anticipated. It is not over. Giving up would guarantee the loss of another wonderful asset to a private operator. What we would gain from selling it does notin the view of many Concerned Citizens with first-hand family experiencecompare to what we would lose.

Dave Callard is hardly one to be cautioning anyone else on fiscal responsibility. In one of the best decisions the Legislature has made in years, we approved a $10,000,000 Nursing Home renovation by a vote of 5-2. He voted against the renovation that made Our Nursing Home marketable today! It also brought us millions in added, annual, and continuing Medicaid reimbursement. His disinterest in renovating the old “A” and “B” wings in 2008 displayed a similar lack of business sense. Had “A” and “B” wings been upgraded, they would have been earning Our Nursing Home some needed revenue since then.

The majority has been adept at losing taxpayer money for the past 13 years. At the time of her blistering letter in late 2012, a 35-year county employee estimated the county had lost about $4 million by privatizing Mental Health billing before 2004. Hundreds of thousands were lost on the privatization of the visiting nurse service in 2009.

Is what we are seeing today really about fiscal discipline? Rather than spending taxpayer money to maintain a county-controlled, Four Star, skilled nursing home, we appear to be willing to turn over millions of taxpayer dollars to a private operator! The Chairman has twice (2005 and 2008) opposed investing in a county-owned asset but has reveled in the opportunity to spend taxpayer resources to promote private enterprise in Medina.

On other fronts the majority has been equally irresponsible. In 2008-2009, they refused to seriously cut their own salaries while the cost of legislator health insurance benefits was skyrocketing. Because they refused to lead by example, they have been unable to be strong in employee negotiations. That, too, displays a lack of fiscal responsibility. (When I pushed for a firmer stance in 2008, I was asked, “Do you want to walk through picket lines?”)  This shortcoming has contributed to unnecessarily high operating expenses in many county departments.

Sending the “Continuing Day Treatment Program” to Genesee County in 2012 arguably could cost taxpayers money as well. It appears to have been an attempt to dramatize the issue of so-called “unfunded mandates.” We are all on the “hook” for whatever it ends up costing.

Selling our County Nursing Home comes with a huge cost that is being downplayed by county leaders. These are the same people who told you there wasn’t room on your tax bills to itemize any other expenses!

In short, the situation we find ourselves in today is the result of years of questionable decision-making.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent
Albion, NY

(Kent is a former county legislator.)