Future of Valley View on county's agenda
GOSHEN — The Orange County Legislature wants to set a public hearing on the future of Valley View, the county-owned nursing home that has been at the center of a fierce controversy over whether it should stay in the county's ownership.
The legislature scheduled a special meeting to set a date for the hearing. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, at the Emergency Services Building Auditorium, 22 Wells Farm Rd., in Goshen.
The public hearing, if scheduled, will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 4.
Wednesday's meeting was called by L. Stephen Brescia of Montgomery, the chair of the legislature. According to his press relese, legislators will vote on a resolution setting a public hearing "in relation to actions authorized concerning the future of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation."
Kerri Hamel, secretary to the legislature, told The Chronicle Tuesday that the public hearing is not about setting up a Local Development Corporation, which is the first step other counties have taken in selling their nursing homes. The county executive, Steve Neuhaus, last month expressed an interest in setting up an LDC, which drew fire from Democrats who claimed Neuhaus was already reneging on his campaign promise to keep the nursing home open.
Neuhaus' office dismissed the Democrats' claim as "partisan attacks," but then added: "The county legislature must ultimately decide who will operate the nursing home, and (Neuhaus) will continue to emphasize that this operator provide the highest quality patient care in a safe environment.”
Legislator Mike Anagnostakis of Newburgh, the Republican who chairs legislature's Health and Mental Health Committee, the subcommittee that oversees Valley View, has said: "I can't imagine a single legislator voting for an LDC, especially when we have uncovered so many savings" at Valley View. Anagnostakis has invited The Chronicle to today's meeting of the Health and Mental Health Committee at 3:45 p.m.
A recent drop in the county's bond rating has pushed county finances to the top of Neuhaus' agenda. His predecessor, Edward Diana, was determined to sell the nursing home, saying it was an unsustainable budget drain that would wreck the county. The legislature pushed back and ultimately voted unanimously to fund Valley View through 2014.
Moody's gave two reasons for downgrading Orange County from Aaa top Aa2: the county has been spending down its surplus, and depends on "economically sensitive sales tax revenue." The rating drop is not serious, in that it does not affect the county's ability to borrow at the best rates.
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