LDC reviews Valley View bids despite court ruling

Bids for nursing home revealed: Offers range from $24.5 million to $30 million

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List of bidders

The following companies have submitted bids to buy Valley View nursing home ranging from $24.5 million to $30 million:
Upstate Services Group
Zenith Care Health Group
Centers for Specialty Care Group
Allure Group
Comprehensive Healthcare
Focus Ventures

By Nathan Mayberg

— The local development corporation created by the Orange County Legislature has disclosed the bids of eight companies, ranging from $24.5 million to $30 million, to buy the Valley View Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility.

There's only one hitch: the local development corporation (LDC) tasked with selling Valley View was ruled invalid by a local judge.

Attorney Michael Sussman, whose lawsuit challenging the legality of the LDC was upheld by a State Supreme Court judge, said the bids should be considered "null and void." He said he will seek to obtain a court order finding the LDC and the county in contempt of the June court decision and its reaffirmation last month.

Sussman wrote a letter to the county and its law firm, Harris Beach, calling on the county and the local development corporation to "cease and desist all operation and activities," including the potential sale of the county-owned nursing home in Goshen.

The Orange County Valley View Development Corporation is "a legal nullity," Sussman said Wednesday.

Still, the LDC intends to stay active. LDC chair Paul Ernenwein, who provided a summary of the bids to the legislators last week, said the group could make a recommendation on them to the legislature next week. He and the six-member LDC were appointed by Neuhaus.

Ernenwein said the LDC plans to meet again next Tuesday at the Orange County 911 Center. He said the group needs to decide which companies it wants to interview, and that the group's work should continue.

"These are some very good, decent people who have invested their time," he said.

Sussman said the LDC should have stopped all its work once Slobod made her initial ruling two months ago.

"Their legal responsibility was to stop," Sussman said. "We have a rule of law. The rule of law means nothing to them."

A determination to sell

The nursing home in Goshen has been targeted for sale by County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who led a majority of the legislature into voting to transfer ownership of the home to an LDC. The legislature authorized the creation of the LDC on the same day that it approved transferring ownership of the home to the LDC. State Supreme Court Judge Elaine Slobod said the transfer was illegal because it required a supermajority vote, or 14 votes. Only 12 legislators voted for the transfer, all but one of them Republicans.

Neuhaus spokesman Dain Pascocello released a statement that said: "The LDC can choose to review these offers and recommend to the legislature that they vote again on this matter, or the LDC can take no action until the court appeal is completed. My goal, however, remains the same: balance the county budget, provide essential services that only government can, and do so in a manner which is affordable to our taxpayers."

Ernenwein said the bid summary was put together by real estate broker Joshua Jandris, senior director of the real estate brokerage firm Marcus and Millichap, which was hired by the county. A question to the county executive about where the money was coming from went unanswered.

The bids were opened by Jandris several weeks ago, after Slobod's ruling, according to both Ernenwein and Sussman. Sussman said the bid process should have never taken after Slobod's ruling. The county appealed the decision but never received a stay. Slobod reaffirmed her ruling in July.

Shannon Wong, a county legislator from Goshen who voted against the formation of the LDC and the subsequent transfer, said the future of Valley View should remain under the jurisdiction of the legislature's health committee.

"These bids were obtained by an LDC that has been deemed illegal," she said.

Wong said the county should stop fighting the matter through the courts.

"The people of Valley View need this emotional roller coaster to end," she said. They are already dealing with health issues, Wong noted. "The last thing you need is emotional stress."

Ernenwein said the county needs skilled nursing facilities.

"A private provider may be the best operator for good medical care that is not reliant on the county tax system," he said.

He said he wants more information about Valley View's finances, and that its expenses "have been a huge challenge" for the county.

One question, different answers

How well the home is doing financially gets different answers from different officials. Valley View reported losing about $9.2 million last year, but that doesn't count a $8.9 million Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement received this week for last year's operations.

Paul Ruszkiewicz, a Republican legislator from Pine Island, supports the sale of Valley View.

"Some of the proposals I saw were pretty impressive," he said.

Ruskiewicz said the legislature may take another vote on transferring ownership of the nursing home to the local development corporation or selling it.

"It depends on what happens with the appeal" of the lawsuit, he said.

"I don't think the county government is in a good position to be running a nursing home," Ruskiewicz said. "Counties all over New York have been selling their nursing homes."

Ruskiewicz said some of the companies interested in buying the home have good track records in keeping employees. But he is not sure if all of the workers at Valley View will be able to keep their jobs. He expects most to have to re-apply.

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