T he Washington County Board of Supervisors replaced its personnel director Friday with her former predecessor.
The board appointed Margaret Wright to serve as the county’s new head of personnel when current director, Barb Winchell’s term expires at the end of the month.
Although the board has actively been searching for a new personnel director, the choice of Wright came as a surprise.
In the resolution packet handed out before Friday’s meeting, the Government Operations Committee recommended the appointment of Albany County employee and Granville High graduate Terilee Dodge to the position, but when the resolution came to the floor Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks amended the proposal and instead appointed Wright.
As personnel director, Winchell has the ability to certify or reject the qualifications of any potential replacement.
The county had submitted a list of three potential replacements and had initially recommended Dodge, but Winchell blocked the appointment.
By appointing her predecessor, the board gave Winchell a candidate with whose qualifications she couldn’t block.
The appointment passed by a 13-4 vote with Cambridge Supervisor William Watkins, Fort Edward Supervisor Mitch Suprenant, Salem Supervisor Salem Pitts and Kingsbury Supervisor Jim Lindsay voting against it.
That vote was actually much closer than it appears because the weighed vote, based on population, was 2,685-1,575.
Wright will begin on April 1 and the appointment is for six years. She will be paid $54,000.
County supports hospice
The board took what may be the first step in finding a new firm to operate its hospice and long term care divisions.
Supervisors authorized Jon Rymph, Easton Supervisor and chairman of the Board of Supervisors, to send a letter in support of High Peaks Hospice and Palliative Care and Community Hospice’s joint application for a certificate of need to operate in the county.
The county is inching toward an agreement with Rochester-based HCR Home Care to take over most of its Public Health Department, including its long-term care division. But HCR has balked at taking over the hospice component even though it’s part of a binding $550,000 purchase agreement both sides reached last year.
Last month, county attorney Roger Wickes conceded that HCR “isn’t crazy about” taking over hospice and said the county would be open to alternatives if the firm presented them.
Late last month, HCR reached out to Community Hospice and High Peaks Hospice and Palliative Care about their interest in taking over Washington County’s hospice program.
Those two not-for-profit companies in turn applied for a certificate of need to operate in the county. Those applications are due by March 31 and will be reviewed by the state in early June.
The letter of support doesn’t mean the two firms will be taking over hospice, although it’s a step in that direction.
On Friday, Wickes characterized the discussion as “very preliminary” and said officials have yet to see finalized plans on how the hospice division would be run under the two firms.
Neither firm is located in Washington County. High Peaks is located in Saranac Lake and provides care in Essex and Warren Counties. Community Hospice is located in Rensselaer and serves numerous counties, including Rensselaer and Saratoga.
Under the current proposal, Community Hospice would provide care to residents in southern Washington County and High Peaks would do the same in the northern half of the county.