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Facing legislature vote, Country Manor likely to close for good

By ANNA MEILER

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) -- The future of Country Manor has been a heated debate between Herkimer County and the union representing employees at the facility for nearly 15 years.

On Thursday, three committees in the Herkimer Legislature held an informal vote and unanimously decided to shut it down for good. Next month, a formal vote will be the deciding factor.

"It's 99.99 percent that it will go through," said Herkimer County Administrator Jim Wallace.

The facility is home to 18 residents and has employs 30 people. County taxpayers spend $705,000 a year to keep the adult care home running.

"The legislature's belief is because it's not a mandated service, unfortunately it's something we can't afford anymore for the taxpayers," said Wallace.

But CSEA, the union that represents the Country Manor employees, says it's a service county residents depend on.

"I don't think the taxpayers are going to see a huge difference at all. I do think however that someday in the future some of them are going to notice that the services are gone when they need it or a family member needs it," said JoAnne LeClair, president of CSEA in Herkimer County.

The county recently was in talks with the private company, Advanced Healthcare, and was going to pay them $18,000 a month for one year to take over. That's because paying a private group to run Country Manor would cost less than what the taxpayers spend in a year.

But CSEA sued the county over selling public property and to protect their members. Advanced Healthcare ultimately agreed to keep the union if they took over Country Manor, but in turn asked the county for more money last week.

The county said no and the sale fell through, leading to Thursday's vote to close it all together.

While the union and county are pointing fingers at each other, patients and employees are asking, what's next?

"Our employees are losing jobs so the county is creating more unemployment in the county. There could be a lot of detrimental effects that come out later. I think the fact of losing the adult home is people will find out in years to come how serious that is when they don't qualify for skilled nursing care and there's nowhere else for them to go," said LeClair.

Wallace says the employees have many transferable skills.

"We have a new facility opening with Valley Health that will be a great opportunity for them. A few of the individuals will be able to retire under the county system, the state system, so that will be good for them and maybe they can also find another job," said Wallace.

Wallace also says the current residents will be evaluated and transferred to new facilities based on the level of care they require.

The formal legislature vote is on April 9. If it passes, Country Manor could close in six to nine months.

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