James O'Donnell leads new Valley View committee

Goshen. The formation of a new committee renews still-fresh fears over the fate of the county-owned nursing home. Legislative chair Steve Brescia wants to formalize a promise that it will not be sold: "We don't need to scare the veterans."

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  • :Legislator James O'Donnell of Goshen

  • Mary Ann McDonough (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Minority Leader Mike Paduch (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Legislator John Vero, 10th Legislative District (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Legislative chair Steve Brescia

Valley View advocate Mary Ann McDonough told Orange County legislators they weren't being sincere that their new committee, headed by James O'Donnell of Goshen, would help the county-owned nursing home.

"Do not try to trick Valley View and the general public with the notion that this panel is looking to enhance Valley View," she said. "This is disingenuous."

The proposal passed with 19 votes. Mike Anagnostakis and Laurie Tautel abstained.

Legislators also appropriated $835,000 in Valley View's surplus for the following purposes: $50,000 to upgrade food service equipment, $50,000 to upgrade mechanical lifters and $735,000 to replace roof top units that provide heating, cooling and ventilation to the Simon and Glenmere buildings, according to Valley View CEO Laurence LaDue.

'Don't carry on the myth'

Legislature chair Steve Brescia assailed the idea that lawmakers were gearing up to sell Valley View — an effort that two county executives and other officials had vigorously applied themselves to in the recent past.

But Brescia called the idea a "myth."

"At the Republican caucus the other night someone suggested that we put in the mission statement that the intent is not to sell Valley View," said Brescia. "And I said that's a good idea. So let's certainly look at that Chairman O'Donnell.

"We don't need to carry the myth on," he continued. "We don't need to scare the veterans. We don't need to scare the residents of Valley View, The intent is to make Valley View much more sustainable. There's always the question about county taxation, and there's still a question to get IGT (intergovernmental transfers) money back. So let's not forget that."

Brescia said he's looking forward to the ideas he expects to come out of the new committee.

"Why not have a health campus like Michael Amo spoke about a few years ago?" he asked. "We have over a hundred acres of property there. Why not have a campus that would offer one stop-shopping?

"Some people are just so negative that they can't help themselves," he said.

Issues that committee will address

The resolution they voted on says: "It is the legislature's desire that the special committee specifically address: veterans issues, a pharmaceutical store and senior housing, as well as any other matters that come before it."

Others on the committee are Michael Amo, Minority Leader Michael Paduch, Valley View CEO Laurence LaDue, the director of real property or designee, and CSEA union president Rosemary Kulkys.

Brescia said he was happy about the new committee.

"It would initiate some positive use of the property, which is certainly going to support the future of Valley View to make it much more sustainable," he said.

Legislator Republican minority leader Katie Bonelli said of the $835,000 appropriation, "I would think that that is a commitment to the facility.”

A past effort to sell

O'Donnell and Amo both supported selling Valley View in the past. O'Donnell drew up a closure plan in which Valley View would immediately stop new admissions, relocate residents up to 50 miles away within 90 days, and begin layoffs in 10 days (please see sidebar, below).

McDonough continued to rebuke the legislators through her three-minute speech. She said Valley View was the only county department charged for services to the tune of $1.6 million a year. And yet it cost the taxpayers zero, she said.

"Let the rest of the county pull their own weight and not rely on the sick, elderly, and disabled as your meal ticket," said McDonough.

The new committee may meet as early as June 18. The committee will give its recommendations to the Health and Mental Health Committee, which oversees it.

Before the vote, Anagnostakis, a longtime Valley View champion, asked that his name be removed as a committee sponsor. But he said he was “thrilled that we are spending this money to improve Valley View to such an extent that you hadn't seen it in the 25 years that it was being run down. So I'm thrilled that we are now doing the right thing for Valley View.”

Brescia said, “It's always been a well-run facility.”

A plan to close Valley view

The May 22, 2012, minutes of the Health and Mental Health Committee state:

“Mr. O'Donnell went on to explain the closure plan and that if the Legislature fails to sell Valley View at the June 7 Legislative Session, they are voting to close Valley View, because on June 8 they would hire a company to close the facility and to place the closure plan in Albany for the State Health Department to review. He went on to explain that they have been advised that it would take approximately ten days to put the closure plan together and some of the things they look at are the discharge plan. He added that every person in the facility would be guaranteed to go to another facility within fifty miles of Valley View, which is the law. They would also begin the process of layoffs and no longer taking admissions, as of right now they have three hundred and forty seniors and four hundred and twenty employees. They expect to have the closure plan delivered on June 19, 2012 to the State Department of Health in Albany which would then begin the ninety day process. On July 1, 2012 the $3 million that the Legislature appropriated would kick in and the $3 million would last longer as a result of no admissions, the discharge plan and employee layoffs. The ninety days would then take them to Sept. 17, 2012 and they do expect to have all the residents placed by then so at that time they would be effectively closed and all remaining employees would be laid off. In addition they have a number of employees at Valley View who are eligible to retire, so if the facility were to be sold they could retire and then be rehired by the new owners.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated from the original to correct an error stating the $835,000 appropriation was to form the committee, when it will actually be used for upgrades. Valley View CEO Laurence LaDue told The Chronicle: "No money was approved to form the Valley View Committee, there is no money needed to form the Valley View Committee. There were separate votes to form the Valley View Committee and separate votes to approve capital equipment expenses for Valley View at this full legislative meeting." The Chronicle regrets the error.

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