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Supervisors revolt, Horace Nye to remain public

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The flagship cost-cutting measure of the administration of Essex County Chairman Randy Douglas was torpedoed Monday; the Horace Nye Nursing Home will remain public.

Supervisors voted 13-1 against a measure to hire a private real estate firm to look for potential buyers. That effectively kills the push to privatize Horace Nye.

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County Finance Committee Chairman Tom Scozzafava – who has railed against the potential privatization for months – was the leader of the uprising.County Finance Committee Chairman Tom Scozzafava – who has railed against the potential privatization for months – was the leader of the uprising.

"I just don't see how we can contemplate selling one of the most vital services that this county offers to its constituents," he said. "As long as I'm on this board, I will do everything I possibly can to stop the sale of that nursing home."

Scozzafava called it the most important vote the county board has cast in years.

"You're going to run in the red. We run in the red at the jail, we run in the red at the DPW, we run in the red at most of the departments that we have," he said. "I just think that the nursing home is critical to the constituency of our county."

County Vice Chairman and North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi has pushed FOR privatization for over a year.

"I'm going to continue voting against costs I feel aren't necessary," he said. "Personally, I feel the Horace Nye situation is very emotional. Everyone's passionate about it, I understand that. It never was an issue of quality of care. It's an issue of cost."

The county faces a 30 percent tax hike nest year. County Manager Dan Palmer -- along with Douglas, Politi and their only other supporter, Wilmington's Randy Preston -- hoped selling the nursing home would cut $2.5 million from the upcoming local tax levy – a reduction of about 12 percent.

Horace Nye boosters argue that privatization would restrict access to much-needed housing and care for the poorest of the region's elderly, especially those receiving Medicaid.

But Douglas and Politi counter that Medicaid reimburses the county far less than what's actually spent on each patient, and the remainder is being shouldered by the local taxpayer.

And Politi remained resolute in his belief that a private nursing home wouldn't necessarily mean less access for the poor.

"I for one do not believe that government does a better job than the private sector," he said.

A frustrated Palmer said he and a recently hired financial consulting firm – the Lancaster Group – will comb through Horace Nye's books and search for cost-cutting measures.

But he said no one should expect miracles.

"I'm not going to find magic cuts," he said.

Jon Alexander for North Country Public Radio

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