LDC passes first hurdle to run nursing home

Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia

Speaking out: Albany County Legislator Deborah Busch, shown here at a meeting last year in Medusa, opposing state gun-control legislation, has just been named to a newly created post — Republican minority whip. Guilderland Republican Lee Carman assumed minority leadership late last year, replacing Christine Benedict of Colonie, who is now the deputy minority leader.

ALBANY COUNTY — Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy proposed a $574 million budget for 2014, with a tax increase of 1.6 percent, but that increase was dependent upon the ability of the legislature to develop a local development corporation to run the county’s nursing home by July.

Deborah Busch, a Hilltown Republican who was recently designated as the minority party’s whip, said she believes the local development corporation would be “a boondoggle, or a cover-up.”

At a meeting on Monday night, the legislature took a “voice vote,” according to Shawn Morse, the chairman of the legislature, and approved the decision to create the local development corporation to “assist with the ongoing operation and administration of the Albany County Nursing Home.”

In 2012, McCoy pushed a plan to privatize the nursing home, which, he said, costs the county just under $1 million to fund. Legislators resisted that idea, and decided to support their own initiative to create the LDC instead.

The LDC needs to be approved by the state and obtain a certificate of need in order to take over the management of the nursing home, and Morse said the state approval can be a lengthy process.

“We are hoping to move this forward over the next couple of months,” said Morse.

Busch said the LDC was simply a way to “keep the status quo,” and to maintain the current employment at the nursing home.

The 250-bed nursing home employs roughly 300 people, paid by the county.

“There is a gross mismanagement here in the county,” said Busch. “We shouldn’t be operating the nursing home if we can’t manage it.”

The LDC contract, said Busch, guarantees that, in the event that the corporation isn’t able to run the nursing home in a more financially responsible manner than the county, the county would re-assume any related debt.

“Of course the county would continue to manage the nursing home if the LDC didn’t work out,” said Morse. “These are people we’re talking about, and we had better have a backup plan.”

Morse said he was frustrated by the misconception that the nursing home was operating at a deficit of $10 million.

“It disturbs me greatly,” he said.

The nursing home is run on contributions, said Morse, and, once it collects all of its contributions from various sources, if there is a gap between contributions and necessary funds, the county fills it in.

“It’s not a deficit,” said Morse. “It’s just the money we’re contributing.”

Busch, however, said that, in her newly created role as the Republican Party whip, she would spend her time making sure the constituents know there are two sides to the story, and that there is an opposing view.

“I think the Republican minority has not had a presence because we fail to give our voice on a lot of issues,” said Busch. “I am very vocal and not afraid to speak out.”

Busch said she was honored to be selected as the whip, especially being a “freshman” legislator, in the second year of her first term.

“I will utilize the position responsibly,” she said, which includes opposing the LDC contract.

The legislature has until July to get the LDC certified, approved, and to hand over the management of the nursing home, without running the risk of increasing county taxes by 8.5 percent, if the county should need to fund the nursing home for the rest of 2014.

“The LDC will be able to run the home in a much more professional and streamlined manner,” said Morse.

Busch maintained there is “no way the LDC will be able to make changes if we keep things status quo.”

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