By Marcello Iaia
ALBANY COUNTY — County legislators remain in a quandary over the final lease agreement for Upstate Services Group to run the Albany County Nursing Home as the proposal has traveled through committees and is slated for a series of public hearings in March.
The Republican minority is aligned with the Democratic county executive, Daniel McCoy, who made the proposal, although the Democratic majority has problems with the plan. The facility has been owned and run by the county.
“Would I put my parent there? Yeah, I would if USG were running it,” said Republican Minority Leader Christine Benedict, who stood by the loss figures that were released by the County Executive’s Office yesterday and called into question by Democrats.
Legislator Gary Domalewicz, a Democrat, referred to them as “phony numbers” — more than $1 million lost each month, with a total of $117 million in the past 10 years.
“We’ll have numbers in a couple of weeks. Final numbers. But it’s not the numbers he’s talking about,” said Domalewicz, a member of the Budget and Finance Committee and chairman of the Special Nursing Home Facilities Committee.
McCoy said his office and Republican Legislator Richard Mendick have calculated the figures that are conservative estimates based on higher ones from the comptroller.
County Comptroller Michael Conners could not be reached in time for print.
The lease agreement includes a $12 million loan and a $4 million Elderly Aid and Support grant “to maintain a safety net for the least able and sickest residents,” with a 2.38-percent interest rate over 15 years. Two-million dollars would be allocated to repair its roof. Rent would be $400,000 a month.
Democratic Majority Leader Frank Commisso said McCoy’s sessions with the legislature helped answer a lot of questions, but others remain. Among them, he wants to know why a business loan from a private bank or collateral couldn’t have been used. The government’s affirmative action standards and goals, he said, may need to be met by USG, as well as the Wicks Law, which requires separated, bid contracts for large government projects.
Commisso questioned whether the local development corporation, the Albany County Elderly Aid and Support Corporation, was limited to a five-year lease term, as opposed to 10 in the agreement.
“It’s much easier for them to walk,” said Commisso of USG. “We are the backstop for the local development corporation. It’s risky.”
Domalewicz would rather the county continue to own the nursing home, investing the loan money into revenue-producing renovations for rehabilitation, ventilator beds, and adult day-care facilities. He also thinks private patients could pay for any vacant beds. Eventually, he would like to see a new building.
“They’re not even looking at that. And that’s what bothers me,” Domalewicz said of revenues.
The first of three public hearings is scheduled for March 7 in the Cahill Room at 112 State Street at 4 p.m. The next legislative meeting will be on March 11.