County nearing agreement to privatize public health, Pleasant Valley

N egotiations between Washington County and the company looking to purchase the county’s Public Health Department were completed last Wednesday, and the Board of Supervisors was expected to review the agreement this week.

If officials are satisfied with the basic framework of the agreement, it will be put to a vote at next Friday’s monthly board meeting.

“I think the issues that were discussed as the last meeting have been settled,” said Roger Wickes, county attorney.

The biggest hurdle remaining is how to staff the public health long-term care, hospice, and home health care divisions during the transition from public to private, Wickes said.

The county and HCR Home Care, which is looking to buy the three public health divisions, are working toward an agreement and the county has asked HCR to help re-staff the department, which lost a number of employees earlier this year during privatization talks.

“We are down some people and have asked them about offering some help,” Wickes said.

If officials approve the sale, HCR could begin running the public health divisions early next year.

Wickes, who characterized the talks with HCR as “nothing less than amicable,” said he anticipates the company hiring a “vast majority” of the current staff when a transition is finally made.

Negotiations with the company looking to buy Pleasant Valley nursing home, Centers for Specialty Care, are ongoing.

County officials are hopeful they will have a purchase agreement at next week’s full board meeting, but Wickes described the sale as a “complicated commercial transaction” and said it takes time.

If an agreement is reached and approved, Centers for Specialty Care will have 60 days following approval of the agreement to survey the nursing home for any structural or environmental flaws. If they are satisfied with the survey, the facility could be private by the end of next year, pending state approval.

The county has been moving toward selling Pleasant Valley and the Public Health Department for months as it tries so shed expenses. Centers for Specialty Care bid just over $2 million for Pleasant Valley last year.

Officials are also exploring the sale the county’s five transfer stations. It’s estimated the transfer stations will be in the red by about $600,000 at year’s end.

Pleasant Valley is projected to run at a $3 million deficit this year and the Public Health Department will cost the county about $700,000 by the end of year.

The sales have received widespread support from the most of the board, with Greenwich Supervisor Sara Idleman and Bob Henke, supervisor of Argyle, where Pleasant Valley is located, being the officials to openly oppose the sales.

Next Friday’s meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in the supervisor’s chambers at the county building in Fort Edward.

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