Debate within the Albany County Legislature on the future of the Albany County Nursing Home seems to be slowing down, and that has Albany County Executive Dan McCoy frustrated.
“Every time they delay it, it’s $1 million savings that the taxpayers of Albany County lose,” he said. “This is about our seniors, and our taxpayers. This is the hardest decision hopefully I’ll have to make as county executive, but it’s something that continues our core mission for our seniors.”
McCoy is hoping the legislature will approve a deal to lease the nursing home to private firm Upstate Service Group. The 10-year lease could save the county more than $100 million, he said. However, progress has stalled as of Monday, Feb. 11, when the Albany County Legislature passed a resolution by a vote of 19-17 asking the county to hire an outside consultant to review the deal with USG.
The following day, McCoy released a statement explaining he has already had an outside consultant looking at the deal for months, a fact many legislators and Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse were not aware of.
“I don’t know anything about the outside consultant.” Morse said, “I think … the legislature cannot afford to make its decision based on what we’re hearing. We have to make sure we base our decision on facts. We want to make the right decision.”
In his statement, McCoy said he has been working with Peter Millock of Nixon Peabody as an outside counsel.
“He has brought enormous experience to this process including 15 years as general counsel at the Department of Health,” McCoy said in the statement. “I am confident the team made up of my executive staff, with the guidance and expertise of Millock has placed the county in the best position possible.”
Although some legislators said they weren’t aware of McCoy’s outside consultant, McCoy said he “wasn’t hiding it.”
“One thing I realized earlier on is that we’re not the experts in everything and we needed someone who was an expert with nursing home contracts,” McCoy said, adding he has been working with Nixon Peabody since November.
McCoy said the legislature’s vote to hire its own consultant is just another way to delay a decision on the nursing home. He said he has not decided whether to veto the resolution or not.
Further complicating matters is the possibility of another bidder for the nursing home. Last month, McCoy was informed a Rockland County resident, Bent Philipson, was interested in buying the nursing home. McCoy said he was unable to look into the bid due to his negotiations with USG, and pursuing any offer “would have been a breach in contract.”
He added, however, that he is aware the bidder has bought a much larger facility in Syracuse for about $2 to $3 million, far less than what McCoy argues the county would save through a lease to USG.
“The legislature is having a hard time wrapping the idea around having a partnership and leasing it. Imagine how it would be if I said we were gonna sell it,” McCoy said.
By selling the nursing home, McCoy said, the county would no longer have any say.
“If you sell it, you’re out,” he said.
McCoy stressed that he does not want to consider closing the 250-bed facility, but the legislature’s “inaction/inability to not wrap their arms around this is costing the taxpayers and it is upsetting to the seniors at the nursing home.”
Minority Republicans in the County Legislature also sent out a statement on Monday, Feb. 11, expressing concerns on the delays.
“Meeting after meeting has been held for the purpose of answering questions about this lease and study after study completed. Will we keep stalling for a legislative vote until the County is forced to close our nursing home?” Minority Leader Christine Benedict said in the statement. “Such tactics are not justified, and they put the care of our elderly at risk.”
“I’m more open to new ideas, but the legislature has to be there, has to be willing to accept it’s a different era, different time. We have to do things differently,” McCoy said. “This is the best solution to the problem of protecting our seniors and taxpayers and accepting responsibility.”
The lawmakers at their Feb. 11 meeting approved of a second resolution by a vote of 24-12 requiring the county to include selling all of the nursing home equipment in the lease.