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Keeler: Nursing home sale approved, but the issue may not be settled
Now that the Suffolk County Legislature has voted to approve the sale of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, it would be nice to think that this long-running issue has now been settled for good.
Unfortunately, it's probably not over.
There's a very good chance that the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, which represents workers at the Foley facility, will take the issue to court. The union is expected to argue that the sale of the home and the county land that goes with it actually required 12 votes, because it disposes of county land. The legislature mustered 10 votes for the proposal at its marathon meeting Tuesday.
If the union does become litigious and somehow manages to block the sale--not all that likely, considering that the county attorney, the legislature's attorney, and the attorney general say 12 votes aren't necessary--that would be a pyrrhic victory. County Executive Steve Bellone's administration has made it starkly clear that, without the sale, he'd be forced to close Foley and lay off its 200-plus workers--and that keeping it open would force a property tax increase.
The sale is worth as much as $33 million in the 2013 county budget that Bellone is set to present to the legislature--$23 million in revenue from the sale and as much as $10 million in avoided operating deficits this year. It would also save the county millions more in avoided costs in the years to come. And it would finally get past an issue that has been a point of contention between the legislature and county executives for years.
But it may well come down to a battle in court that won't be helpful either to the county or to the union. So the AME should carefully think the ramifications of a lawsuit through.
Pictured above: The John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank.