Questions linger over vote to sell Fulton County nursing home
FULTON COUNTY The Fulton County Board of Supervisors may need to vote again on selling the county’s nursing home after the board failed to reach a two-thirds majority to sell the facility on April 11.
Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy said Wednesday that County Attorney Arthur “Skip” Spring is researching the issue of whether an earlier vote to authorize the sale of the facility on Nov. 22, which did pass with a two thirds majority, is sufficient to complete the sale or if a second two-thirds majority vote is required. Handy voted against both the April 11 and Nov. 22 resolutions to sell the facility for $3.5 million to Bronx-based Centers for Specialty Care. He said he’d vote against it a third time if he has to.
“I think for the seniors in this area the infirmary is their last resort. I think the Centers for Specialty Care are going to pick and choose who they want and I think you’re going to see a lot of our seniors probably ending up in nursing homes throughout the state, rather than ending up here in Fulton County,” he said. “I don’t know whether we needed a majority or a two-thirds majority to sell it. We’re waiting for a ruling on that from the county attorney. There may need to be another vote, but I don’t know.”
Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Rooney said he’d also vote against the sale again if it came before the board a third time. Rooney, a certified public accountant, said he believes the nursing home would be a “break even” proposition for the county were it not for the drop in the stock market a few years ago which prompted a dramatic increase in the county’s state pension contribution for the nursing home’s employees. He said as the stock market rises he expects the pension costs will diminish and the home will be more viable as a public entity.
“I’m not in any way backing off my no vote,” he said. “I think this should be put up for a public referendum.”
Handy and Rooney were two of six supervisors who voted against the sale on April 11. The others were: Johnstown Supervisor Jack Wilson, Stratford Supervisor Richard Johnson, Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. and Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Shirley Savage. According to the county’s weighted voting system, the resolution passed 349-180, with the other 14 supervisors voting for it.
The vote was wasn’t as close Nov. 22 when only Handy, Johnson, Lauria, Savage and Rooney opposed the resolution, without Wilson’s 72 weighted votes. The Nov. 22 vote passed by 443-108 with former Johnstown Supervisor Roy Palmateer voting in favor of selling the facility. Palmateer resigned Jan. 1, and cited the controversy over the sale of the nursing home as one of his reasons for quitting. Wilson was appointed by the Johnstown Town Board to replace him.
The language of the Nov. 22 resolution appears to authorize the sale of the facility to Centers for Specialty Care “subject to final negotiation”, which the resolution authorized the board’s chairman, Bleecker Supervisor David Howard, to conduct.
Howard, Spring and Jason Brott, assistant county attorney, could not be reached for comment.
Wilson said he voted against the sale in part because he’s received many complaints from his town’s residents about the sale and also because he had too many unanswered questions about the process before the vote. He said Spring spoke to the board before the vote during an executive session but never told them a two-thirds majority was required for the sale of county property. Wilson said he doesn’t yet know how he’d vote in a revote of the issue, if there were one.
Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron, who is the vice chairman of the board, said he believes the Nov. 22 two-thirds majority vote by the board was sufficient to authorize the sale of the facility. He said since April 11 Spring and Centers for Specialty Care have identified some issues that may need to be amended in the contract for the sale of the facility and the board may need to vote on those amendments.