The atmosphere was filled with tension and anxiety throughout the meeting as the restless crowd heckled and suggested solutions as the supervisors discussed the issue, which ultimately ended in the committee voting 4-2 in favor of endorsing the formation of a local development corporation (LDC). The issue will now move into the Law and Finance Committee. If that committee votes to move forward with an LDC, the issue will then be in the hands of the entire County Board of Supervisors to put to a vote.
Kathy Garrison, Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA) Capital Region President, spoke to Maplewood supporters at a press conference before the start of the committee meeting, emphasizing that she thinks the supervisors are moving too fast with the issue.
“We would like the board to slow down this process and to answer our questions,” Garrison said. “We hope this committee will step back for a moment and open up the process so there is more transparency.”
Garrison also said that the local government is putting other services ahead of caring for the needy.
“This comes at a time when we’re giving huge tax breaks to companies such as GlobalFoundries over in Malta,” she said. “And at the same time we’re putting in jeopardy the services for the most needy in our community, and we don’t think that’s fair.”
The meeting itself included a presentation by consultants from the Harris Beach firm, who provided the report and analysis of Maplewood Manor that the Public Health Committee based its votes on. The report favored the formation of an LDC, and consultant Justin Miller said an LDC could provide the county with flexibility for addressing budgetary constraints, a comment that several attendees booed.
Miller said an LDC would require a board of directors, which could be made up of three to seven members with a blend of both public county supervisors and private sector representatives.
Saratoga Springs County Supervisor Joanne Yepsen said she had concerns about the transparency of an LDC.
“What it boils down to is that an LDC is less transparent than what we have now, and we don’t even have a transparent process now, in terms of answering the questions these people have,” Yepsen said.
Edinburg Town Supervisor Jean Raymond asked Miller if an LDC board would be under the same constraints as the local government for open meetings. Miller did confirm that an LDC would be under the same open meeting laws as the county supervisors.
Yepsen also added that she feels an LDC would just be “a couple of people trying to take control of Maplewood Manor.”
“That’s just how I feel about it,” she said. “I just don’t see the benefits of it. You have to show me the numbers.”
Public Health Committee Chairman Arthur “Mo” Wright said the board is approaching this with a realistic attitude.
“The reality is that we are going to lose $10 million,” Wright said. “In order to make that up, we would either have to lay off 110 Maplewood employees or raise taxes by 20 percent. Those options are not attainable.”
Wright added that the county is “on a very slippery slope” and that it is “almost bankrupt,” to which the crowd booed loudly.
The board members continued to individually contribute their input before the vote.
“I just want you all to know that I don’t believe any of us have arrived at a decision without a great deal of thought, study, concern and wishing we didn’t have to make this decision at all,” Raymond said.
The committee then proceeded to vote: Joanne Yepsen and Patti Southworth voted against an LDC and moving the issue into the Law and Finance Committee, while Arthur Wright, Ed Kinowski, Alan Grattidge and Jean Raymond voted for the measure.
Southworth said she was unhappy with the outcome of the meeting.
“It’s not expected—obviously I’m not happy about it,” she said. “It’s not the direction I think we should take. We are just going to shift the burden to another place, in my eyes.”
Southworth also added that she believed forcing the home into privatization shows the board’s lack of foresight.
“I think the fact that we’re behind a private industry shows our lack of action and response,” she said. “We tend to be reactive instead of proactive.”
A 26-year Maplewood Manor employee, Terry Tree, said that there should be a moral obligation to take care of the seniors.
“Shame on the supervisors for allowing this to happen,” Tree said after the meeting. “Shame on them.”
Dorothy Tyler, founder of the Maplewood Manor Family Council, said her group will have another meeting to brainstorm “concrete ideas,” which the Public Health Committee said are welcomed.
“I’m going to get as many ‘concrete ideas’ as I can and will hand deliver them to the board if necessary,” Tyler said. “There’s got to be ways to do this other than going through an LDC. There’s got to be.”