Despite trepidation about a proposed 20-year tax abatement to purchase Country Manor, the Herkimer County Legislature voted 13 to 3, with one abstention, Wednesday evening to move forward with the sale of the adult care facility to Advanced Healthcare Management.
Legislators John Brezinski, D - Frankfort, Gary Hartman, D - Herkimer, and Helen Rose, D - Herkimer, cast the no votes. Legislator Robert Hyde, R - Mohawk, abstained from voting as he has a family member who works for the company that operates facilities in Rome, Norwich and Syracuse.
Legislator Kurt Ackerman, R - Little Falls, said the county has tried for years to downsize or sell Country Manor, as in any given year the county, due to increased operational costs and declining state reimbursements, loses between $500,000 and $600,000 on the home.
The agreement will allow Advanced Healthcare Management to purchase the facility for $335,000 over a five-year term, and states the county agrees to pay the company a transition fee of $18,000 per month for one year — a total of $216,000 — after the closing of the transaction.
Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono, R - Schuyler, has said by accepting the proposal the legislature will limit the disruptions to the lives of the residents of Country Manor and their families by allowing them to remain in the facility, and achieve substantial savings for the taxpayers of Herkimer County by avoiding future substantial deficits which would result from continuing to operate the facility.
Hartman said while he understood his colleagues’ motivation to find a more cost-effective way to provide necessary services to county residents, he could not support the agreement.
“I will never understand the urgency to get out of the adult care business at any and all financial and human costs,” he said. “I am dismayed and disgusted with the recent threats that have come from members of this body that ‘you will take this deal or we’ll close this place.’”
Rose said she could not support the agreement because the process that led to it was “secretive.”
“The resolution before us is the product of a secretive process that involved perhaps a handful of legislators in this room,” she said. “It is clear from the committee meetings that voted this resolution out unanimously some of the people in this room were able to discuss details with the purchaser.”
Legislator Dennis Korce, R - Mohawk, said he sat in on a few of the meetings with Advanced Healthcare Management and got an idea of whether they were capable of taking over Country Manor.
“I am confident they can do a very good job here in Herkimer County and with Country Manor,” he said, adding he also believes there is a 50 percent chance the agreement ultimately will not pan out. “There’s a chance, a very good chance, that we could go back to square one.”
Page 2 of 2 - Officials previously agreed to submit an application to the state Department of Health for a certificate of need for 80 assisted-living beds on behalf of Advanced Healthcare Management.
Wednesday evening, Hartman said if the company does not receive the certificate of need they can void the deal. “Valley Health Services already has approval for 36 assisted-living beds. These are currently the only assisted-living beds approved for the county. There also is a needs assessment that was conducted by the state Department of Health that states Herkimer County only needs 36 assisted-living beds, which have already been given to Valley Health Services by the state,” he said.
During an Aug. 30 meeting of the legislature’s Ways and Means, Human Resources and County Properties committees, several legislators were wary of Advanced Healthcare Management asking for a 20-year tax abatement from the county Industrial Development Agency.
“I sit on the IDA’s Board of Directors and I can say I don’t see this happening,” Bono said Wednesday evening. “I will not support their request for a 20-year tax abatement.”
The agreement states the purchase is subject to the company obtaining the abatement.
The agreement also states Advanced Healthcare Management would allow residents living in the facility on State Route 28 in the town of Herkimer to remain there as long as their needs can be met in accordance with state and federal health care regulations, and the company may elect, but is under no obligation, to offer employment to employees who currently work at Country Manor.
Legislator Robert Schrader, R - Herkimer, said he received assurances from county Administrator James Wallace and county Department of Social Services Commissioner Tim Seymour the county would offer training programs to County Manor employees so they could receive their certification.
“If certification is a priority for employment, then the county should offer a program to the employees so they can earn their credentials to have the opportunity to be considered for a job,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do for the employees, and it’s something I will follow up on.”
Contributing: GateHouse News Service