ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers debated this week whether Horace Nye Nursing Home employees should get preferential treatment for other county jobs once the facility leaves county ownership.
The home’s 133 workers are being offered positions with the new owner, but some want to stay in county employment to keep their health insurance and retirement benefits, Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said at the County Board of Supervisors Personnel and Administration Committee session this week.
“I’ve been getting some calls from Horace Nye employees in regards to (other) positions that are opening up,” Scozzafava said. “Are we showing any preference to Horace Nye employees if they’re qualified?”
One problem is that many jobs at Horace Nye are certified nursing assistants, County Manager Daniel Palmer said, and the county doesn’t offer those positions anywhere else.
“If they’re qualified, within their (job) title, they go on what we call a preferred list,” Palmer said. “In the (county) offices, there are account clerks or senior account clerks (positions) that those individuals may be entitled to.”
He said that being on the list doesn’t mean they can bypass a qualified existing employee of that department, though.
“The department heads are the appointing authority,” Palmer said. “They have the right to select who they want from the most qualified employees. This board can’t tell them who to hire.
“They (qualified Horace Nye employees) certainly are entitled to an interview. But this board can’t say, per se, that you have to hire that individual.”
Maybe department heads could be encouraged by the Board of Supervisors to try to hire former Horace Nye workers, Scozzafava said.
Palmer said those workers should put their names in for jobs they are interested in.
“If something opens up, that name will go in with that application. We have to be careful about saying, ‘You have to hire this one.’”
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said encouragement to hire former Horace Nye employees might be enough.
“We can strongly encourage them to take a look at this if they’re qualified,” he said. “The last thing we want to see is an employee who’s been with Horace Nye 10, 12, 15 years not be considered.”
The sale and transfer of Horace Nye Nursing home to the Bronx-based Centers for Specialty Care is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, County Attorney Daniel Manning III told supervisors.
“Those are no problems,” he said.
He said they got an agreement with the union representing Nursing Home employees, the Civil Service Employees Association, on termination of most of the labor contract there with the sale.
Manning also got a directive from the committee allowing him, Douglas or Palmer to sign documents related to the transfer as it approaches.
“It’s so we have a clear resolution to that effect. It doesn’t change anything, and I don’t want any last-minute problems,” Manning said.
Scozzafava was the only supervisor opposed to the resolution, and it passed, 7-1, with Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) absent. Scozzafava has been opposed to the sale and voted against it when it was first proposed.
The county sold the Nursing Home to remove its more than $2 million annual losses from the county tax levy.
Douglas also recognized Newcomb Deputy Supervisor Wester Miga, who was sitting in while Canon is recovering from heart surgery.
Miga can’t vote but will be offered the courtesy of the floor if he wants to speak, he said.
“I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to talk knowledgeably,” Miga told them.
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