Cemetery an issue in Fulton County nursing home’s sale
FULTON COUNTY There’s a cemetery located on the same property as Fulton County’s nursing home, and county officials said Wednesday that it must be separated from the infirmary property before the sale of the infirmary can be finalized.
At an April 11 meeting, the majority of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a contract to sell the Fulton County Residential Healthcare Facility, and its surrounding 15 acres, to Tarrytown-based Centers for Specialty Care for $3.5 million.
Fulton County Attorney Arthur “Skip” Spring says that since the board’s vote, “three issues” have emerged with the contract that must be amended before the sale can be completed. One of the issues is the cemetery.
“We were unaware of these issues at the time of the meeting. The cemetery issue is a big one. There is a county-owned cemetery on the premises that I was unaware of,” he said.
The county’s request for proposals from those interested in purchasing the nursing home disclosed the existence of the cemetery, but county officials did not take action to officially separate it from the nursing home property before approving the contract to sell it.
“I needed to find out the size of it and the location of it. Naturally, we need to carve that out. We can’t sell it. We wouldn’t want to sell it,” Spring said. “This is what we’ve been doing since the last meeting. Thank God the location of it is right off the main road, so we don’t have to have an easement. So that will make it easy.”
County officials said the size of the cemetery is 80 by 126 feet, with 102 people buried there. Officials estimate that the last burial at the cemetery was in 1960.
David Howard of Bleecker, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, said the cemetery was created as part of the pre-welfare poorhouse system.
“This dates from back when the county poorhouse was there. We didn’t used to have a welfare system. When people couldn’t pay their bills or support their families, they went to the county poorhouse. If you happened to die there and there was no family available, you were buried there,” he said. “This just came up as part of the closing document.”
Spring said the county board will vote on amending the contract at its next meeting to carve out a 100-by-150-foot parcel, with a buffer zone for parking, for the cemetery. He said he believes that County Law 222 prohibits the sale of a cemetery.
Howard said the second of the three issues identified since the contract was approved was the county’s installation of a federally mandated sprinkler system in the nursing home. In September the county borrowed approximately $500,000 to install the new system. Howard said the sprinkler mandate came after the board released its RFP detailing the condition of the facility and the contract needs to be amended to reflect the upgrade. He said the cost of the system will not affect the sale price.
Spring would not reveal the third issue identified with the contract but said all three of the issues have now been “ironed out” and need only to be formally approved by the board.
The April 11 vote to approve the contract with Centers for Specialty Care did not pass by a two-thirds majority, which is required by county law for the sale of county property. However, a Nov. 22 vote — to sell the property contingent upon the completion of negotiations — did pass with a two-thirds majority.
In November, Ray Palmateer was the town of Johnstown supervisor, and he voted for the sale. Now the supervisor is Jack Wilson, and he opposed the sale in the more recent vote. The shift of Johnstown’s 72 weighted votes dropped the majority below two-thirds.
Palmateer resigned Jan. 1 and cited the controversy over the sale of the nursing home as one of the reasons why. Wilson has said he had “unanswered questions” about the sale before the April 11 vote and has not yet determined how he would vote on the issue if it came up a third time.
Spring said he does not believe a third vote is legally necessary.
“We had our two-thirds vote in November 2010 to comply with county law, but since we’re going to go back and re-vote I would just as soon have a two-thirds vote because that will resolve any quarrels anyone might have,” he said. “Do I think it’s necessary to have a two-thirds vote at our next meeting? No. Would I like to have a two-thirds vote? Yes.”