Year hailed for Saratoga County’s financial turnaround
SARATOGA COUNTY Saratoga County supervisors achieved goals this year that are turning the county’s finances around, outgoing Board of Supervisors Chairman Alan R. Grattidge said Tuesday.
The county has tentatively sold both its money-losing nursing home and unused landfill and changed direction on economic development strategy, Grattidge said following his final meeting as chairman.
“I think we accomplished many of the goals we set out to do,” he told fellow supervisors during the meeting in Ballston Spa.
Until earlier Tuesday, it wasn’t clear if it would be Grattidge’s last meeting at the head podium. The Charlton Republican is to be replaced by Malta town Supervisor Paul J. Sausville, but Sausville nearly lost his re-election bid. Sausville’s one-vote win wasn’t certain until an appeals court ruling Tuesday in Albany invalidated two votes for his opponent.
Sausville’s win put an end to speculation about what would happen if he lost. A second year as chairman for Grattidge was among the possibilities.
The sale of the Maplewood Manor nursing home and the landfill “were the two key items that really called out” as accomplishments, Grattidge said.
County officials started making plans to sell both facilities in 2011, during the government financial crisis that grew from the recession. In January, Grattidge called selling Maplewood Manor “the single most important thing we can do to restore the county’s financial health.”
The three-year effort to sell Maplewood Manor because of its multimillion-dollar operating losses came to a head Monday, when Zenith Care Health Group agreed to buy the facility in Ballston Spa for $14.1 million.
“It was an open and transparent process we went through, and I think we picked a quality operator,” Grattidge said.
The transfer of ownership still requires approval from the state Health Department, but Zenith CEO Ari Schwartz met Tuesday with Maplewood Manor’s management staff. Zenith will be investing $2.5 million in capital improvements as part of the transaction.
“The residents of Saratoga County will be pleasantly surprised with the options they will have available,” said county Public Health Committee Chairman Ed Kinowski, R-Stillwater, who attended the meeting.
“They came across as genuine, looking to improve services over there,” Grattidge said.
The county landfill in Northumberland, which has been unused since it was built it in the late 1990s, is being sold to Finch Paper of Glens Falls, which plans to put it into operation. Finch, which has a paper sludge landfill on adjoining land, plans to use the county site for sludge and municipal waste and to link the two landfills together into a single landfill.
Finch was selected over two other bidders in June. It will be paying the county $6 million as its plans develop, plus an estimated $1.7 million a year as a share of tipping fees it collects. The transaction is expected to close in January, Grattidge said, with the county receiving an immediate $4 million payment.
While both those transactions will bolster the county treasury, he also said the decision to change direction with economic development marketing will have a major impact in the future. The county severed its marketing relationship with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. and hired a consultant to write a strategic plan for the county’s economic development. The plan is currently being drafted.
“That’s going to be part of my legacy going forward,” Grattidge said.
Other accomplishments, he said, including reaching agreements with two of the county’s three labor unions and finding ways to reduce health insurance costs.
In regular business at the board’s last meeting of the year, supervisors unanimously adopted a local law prohibiting the public from bringing deadly weapons — guns or knives — into county buildings. There has been no opposition to the proposal.
The law is part of a larger county effort to prepare employees to deal with dangerous circumstances, begun in response, at least in part, to public shootings in recent years.
“It’s just a sign of the times,” Grattidge said. “You just have to prepare for these unimaginable activities.”