Warren County would like to get out from under losses piling up at Westmount nursing home, by selling it or leasing it to a private operator or through some other method.
To help them figure out what to do, they’re talking about hiring a consultant. The consultant, according to county Administrator Paul Dusek, would charge up to $100,000.
Why don’t board members research the market for publicly owned nursing homes themselves? Why don’t they assign an official already on the public payroll — someone like Dusek — to develop contacts and come up with a plan?
Warren County is following a path already trod by several of its neighbors. If Warren County supervisors are nervous about their ability to market the nursing home on their own initiative, they can follow the directions laid out by consultants for other political leaders in other counties, who were equally lacking in confidence.
A couple of years ago, Washington County paid the Center for Governmental Research almost $70,000 for a two-phase study, including the history and the potential for sale, of its health care services.
Saratoga County recently paid Webb and Harris Beach $50,000 for a study on privatizing Maplewood Manor nursing home.
Every nursing home has its own individual circumstances, but Warren County could assign someone to read the studies done for other counties and decide which strategies would help with Westmount. It will take work, but not $100,000 worth.
We’ve read some of these governmental studies. They usually start with the history of an institution and basic market research of the type a college student with access to a computer could compile. Then they move into a more specific discussion of a facility’s conditions and what they mean for its value on the market.
None of the information in these reports is proprietary. Proficiency with Internet search engines and the ability to press the print button is all that is needed to get most of it. The rest can be obtained by anyone who can use a telephone.
One reason politicians agree to pay overblown fees for such studies is investing, say, $100,000 in a study on the sale of a county nursing home gives them a justification for going ahead with a sale. Once they’ve paid for the study, they can say they don’t want to lose their $100,000 investment.
In Warren County’s case, spending money on a study now seems ill-timed, even if it were worth the price, because the county is already talking with a potential buyer.
Adirondack Tri-County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Inc. of Johnsburg has expressed an interest in buying Westmount. You would think Warren County political leaders would prefer talking with a potential buyer to paying a consultant to find potential buyers.
We don’t know what Tri-County would be willing to pay for Westmount, but we do know Warren County is losing money there. Its annual loss is projected to be $2.5 million by 2015.
The county should try to get the best price possible, but when one facility is inflicting that much financial pain, getting rid of it seems to be the top priority.
Why spend time waiting on a study when you have someone knocking on your door to buy the place?
The first thing Warren County should do is explore a sale to Adirondack Tri-County. At the same time, supervisors should set up a subcommittee to study the sale of the nursing home, and if they need help, they can ask it of Mr. Dusek.
Any sale accomplished in-house will save the $100,000 consultant’s fee. Any sale accomplished without the delays necessitated by hiring a consultant will save the county even more money, because of the thousands of dollars a month it is losing at the nursing home.
We elect supervisors to lead the county through difficult decisions, and we pay county employees to handle the work those decisions require. We’d like to see all of them do their jobs.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mark Bergman.