It’s not surprising that the Otsego County Board of Representatives voted last week to offer Otsego Manor for sale to private companies. This, after all, seems to be the way the state is going. More and more counties are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to continue bearing the cost burden associated with such facilities.
But we were a little surprised by the way this happened.
The board provided no advance public notice that it was prepared to act on the fate of the Manor at its most recent meeting. The topic was not listed on the agenda handed out at the beginning of the public meeting.
Just a month earlier, county board members agreed to hire a consulting firm to advise it about what to do with the 174-bed facility, which is costing the county millions annually.
At that time, Manor director Edmond Marchi outlined several options, which included downsizing the facility or seeking a partner to help operate it.
We don’t know if all those options were discussed at a meeting later in August of the Otsego Manor Committee, because the meeting was closed to the public. But we know the committee decided to recommend to the board that it sell the facility outright and get out of the nursing home business altogether.
The board’s nearly unanimous vote (only Keith McCarthy, R-Springfield, dissented) could indicate that the outcome was inevitable.
But we’ll never know. What if more people had attended that meeting, knowing that the fate of the Manor was going to be discussed? What if someone brought up a point of view or an idea that the board members hadn’t considered?
Maybe that’s a stretch of the imagination. Certainly the board has been mulling this issue for months, even years.
But it’s still a shame that this process wasn’t more transparent. Given the number of letters to the editor we have received on the issue, we are sure there are people out there who would have liked a chance to persuade the board to consider alternatives to the sale.
As for what this will ultimately mean for the facility, it’s hard to know. Otsego County Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, chairwoman of the Manor Committee, vowed that the Manor would not end up like Countryside Care Center in Delhi, which has runcome afoul of federal and state regulators for various deficiencies.
But in truth, once the county hands over the reins to someone else, it can do little to make good on such a promise.