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Broome County Legislature to vote on controversial Willow Point contract this week

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — This week, the Broome County Legislature will vote on a controversial contract with a private company. Centers for Care LLC, which owns over 30 nursing homes across New York state, would help Willow Point Nursing Home with staffing and billing issues. The company would be paid $3.3 million over four years for its consulting services.

But under the proposed contract, the company would also be first in line to buy the facility, if the county decides to sell it in the next six years.

In a committee meeting last week, Legislator Kim Myers emphasized that the Legislature is voting on a consulting contract. She said it does not mean the county has to sell Willow Point.

“We're not even close to that yet, we are under no obligation whatsoever. We're in an emergency situation. And I feel we have a viable solution to get our feet under us, see where we're at, see where the finances are. And then we go from there,” Myers said.

But others question why a sales clause is in the contract at all. Denise Johnson is a former Willow Point administrator. She’s now chairperson of the Willow Point Advisory Board.

“If we haven’t made the decision, then why is the first right of refusal in the same contract as the consulting? We haven’t made it to that point,” Johnson said.

The sales clause would allow Centers for Care to buy the nursing home for $7 million, if the county decides to sell. Some legislators argue that’s lower than it should be.

County Executive Jason Garnar argued that considering theextreme staffing shortages and financial stress Willow Point is experiencing, $7 million is actually a good deal.

“I would challenge anybody to try to get a sale price of $7 million dollars for, you know, a company that has lost $10 million over the past two years,” Garnar said.

In an email sent to a legislator, Vestal Town Assessor Mark Minoia said the nursing home is currently assessed at over $17 million. Committee meetings have grown increasingly heated, as the day of the vote gets closer.

If the contract is not passed, the current administrator of Willow Point may leave. Adam Aranov worked for Centers for Care before being hired to work at the nursing home. According to previous statements by Garnar, Aranov might leave if the contract is not passed.

During a Health and Human Services Committee meeting last week, Legislator Jason Shaw invited Lisa Wickens-Alteri, the president of Capital Health Consulting LLC, a consulting company that works with county-run nursing homes, to speak with the Legislature. She argued there are other ways to find administrators.

“There are other mechanisms. And there are other ways, there are administrators that we can help you get if you don't have an administrator,” Alteri said.

Legislator Karen Beebe said it’s too late to consider other options, considering that the nursing home has been looking for an administrator since the previous one left.

“The county did look for an administrator and we had an administrator who gave two weeks notice… once they were under the guise of like, hey, what's going on there? We need to really look at this. He left, and we needed to have an administrator, and we found one,” Beebe said.

But several legislators said they would be more comfortable with putting the job up for bid, whether or not it would involve selling the facility.

The Legislature is set to vote on the contract on Thursday at 5 p.m.