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County to sell Van Duyn

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: County to sell Van Duyn
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Onondaga County is moving toward selling off its publicly owned nursing home, the Van Duyn Home and Hospital. YNN's Bill Carey says the first major hurdle was cleared in a series of votes by Onondaga County legislators.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. - The chairman of the Onondaga County Legislature called it one of the toughest decisions his members will face as local lawmakers. The state of New York, for years, has frozen its reimbursement rates to publicly owned nursing homes.

For Onondaga County's Van Duyn Nursing Home, that has meant a fiscal crisis. The county says the only way to insure the facility remains open is to sell it to a private company which can claim higher reimbursements from the state to pay for a variety of services. But it is a decision that is not popular.

“Everything's a business. Is this the new county mission that we're going to apply to our parks, and to our libraries? To the jail? To the penitentiary? To roads? To the rest of county services? That it's a business that has to make money?” asked county resident Christopher Jamison.

“How will a private facility manage to provide the same or better services? To make a profit, what corners will have to be cut?” asked Susan Langley, the mother of a patient at Van Duyn.

The union representing many of the facility's workers is talking about a lawsuit to challenge the sale, saying the county has yet to back up its claim that it faces deficits of a million dollars a month if it holds on to Van Duyn.

“That brings me to think that the numbers are either fabricated or over-inflated to make the sale of Van Duyn seem more urgent,” said Phil Graham, CSEA Local 834 President.

Lawmakers, though, say the numbers are very real.

“By voting against this measure today, you are voting for a $115 million minimum tax increase to the local tax levy. There's no question, if ands or buts about it,” said Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon.

“It's just not practical for us to continue down a road of bankruptcy for our county,” Onondaga County Legislator Michael Plochocki said.

In the end, the vote for the transfer was 13 to four, in favor.

The plan is for the county to continue to control Van Duyn for the next several months under a lease agreement. The new private company taking control on December 1st of next year.

The new private owner vowing it will continue so-called "safety net" services for the disabled and poor.

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