AUBURN — Some Cayuga County legislators are fed up with the apparently little progress made on selling the former county nursing home in Sennett to Auburn Community Hospital.
Nearly a year ago, ACH submitted a certificate of need to the state Department of Health to relocate the Finger Lakes Center for Living, the nursing home operated by the hospital, to the vacant former home at 7451 County House Road. The move, ACH had said, would double the number of private rooms available and allow for more occupational and physical therapy programs.
In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation authorizing the county to sell or lease the Sennett property, which closed in 2015 after merging with Mercy Health & Rehabilitation Center in Auburn, now The Commons on St. Anthony.
Legislators at a Government Operations Committee meeting Tuesday night asked county attorney Fred Westphal and county administrator J. Justin Woods for updates on where the potential sale or lease stood.
Legislator Paul Pinckney said he recalled asking for an appraisal of the building almost a year ago, and thought last fall legislators had set a deadline of October through Jan. 1 for an answer from the hospital as to what it would do concerning the property.
Westphal said he understood the cost of the renovations to the former nursing home had increased, and the hospital was not awarded state funding it had applied for last year. Jason Lesch, chief financial officer of ACH, had told The Citizen last year that upgrading the County House Road facility would cost about $4.6 million and it had applied for a $3.5 million grant through the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program. If the hospital was not awarded that funding, Lesch said it would apply again the following year. Westphal said Tuesday he believed ACH was doing that.
Woods said he gathered the hospital wanted to move forward with a deal, but did not have the resources. He recently talked to ACH CEO Scott Berlucchi.
"I spoke with Scott and said, 'If you're interested, then we've got to get this deal done, and if you're not interested, or you don't have the resources to proceed and that precludes you from being interested, then we understand, but we can't keep carrying the costs for you until you do have the funds,'" Woods said. "This prompted a subsequent call that we had, where he said they're interested regardless whether they get the funds to do the project, or they're looking at other opportunities out there. They're interested and they're looking to get it done."
Westphal said he felt the next step would be get an appraisal done. He has a contract and purchase offer in hand, he added.
"I would like to see everybody move forward with the transfer of ownership," said Legislator Tucker Whitman. "Otherwise, I would like to see some sort of resolution in the next month or so that says, 'After 90 days, we're going to move on to Plan B and do something else with this building.' It's just sitting there. It's kind of our hot potato at the moment."
Pinckney said he, too, would like to see a deadline.
"I'm all in favor of a drop-dead date," he said. "If they can't move that fast, then that's not the direction to go, but we can't let this linger around another 12 months."
Woods said he agreed, and he didn't expect it would take that long.