By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — Advocates for keeping the Otsego Manor a public facility say they aren’t throwing in the towel on the fight against privatization of the 174-bed nursing home.
Hilda Wilcox of Cooperstown, a retired State University College at Oneonta writing instructor, said she plans to host an organizing meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at her Pine Street home for people concerned by the county Board of Representatives’ plan to sell the home to the highest “responsible” bidder. She said if the expected attendance becomes too large for her home to accommodate, she will try to find another venue.
“The public deserves an opportunity to have an open exchange of ideas,” Wilcox said. “We don’t need lectures” from elected officials who have concluded that privatizing the Manor is the best option for the county.
County lawmakers are expected to again take up a resolution next month to authorize the sale of the Manor. Although they reached that decision in September, the vote was voided last week by a state judge who decided board members violated the Open Meeting Law.
Meanwhile, the Board of Representatives is in the process of forming a citizen advisory committee to assist the county board on the privatization effort.
Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, said the final decision on the makeup of the panel will be made by board Chairwoman Rep. Kathleen Clark, R-Otego.
“It is going to be like a steering committee as we go along the process with our consultant,” Stuligross said. “The committee is being formed to move this along. It is not going to make a decision on what we should do. We have to move along the path that we are going to sell it.”
One opponent of privatization, Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, said on his blog Wednesday that a plan to keep the Manor public, one framed by Rep. John Kosmer, D- Fly Creek, could “rise again” if the union for its workers initiated contract negotiations.
At that point, he indicated, there could be sentiment for allowing a public survey that would gauge whether county residents support a small increase in the sales tax to help defray the subsidy the Manor receives from the county treasury.
“So it’s difficult, but not impossible,” Koutnik wrote.