As closure of Suffolk's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility nears, county lawmakers moved Tuesday to market the valuable building and land that will be left behind.
The legislature voted 11-5, with one absence and one abstention, to direct county officials to determine how the 170,000-square-foot building in Yaphank and 14 surrounding acres should be offered for sale to maximize profit. Options include a public auction or requesting bids tailored to a specific use.
Marketing will not start until the last of Foley's seven remaining patients have been transferred to other nursing homes. Foley, which once had 264 patients, is slated for closure June 30. At that point, the county will surrender its nursing home operating license to the state.
County Executive Steve Bellone, whose efforts to complete a $23 million sale of Foley to private operators was blocked last year by a lawsuit, supported the measure. Aide Tom Vaughn told lawmakers: "This is not the end that anyone wanted to see."
Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said the bill, which he co-sponsored, didn't limit the county to selling the property. Some lawmakers have suggested options including moving county departments now in rented space into the Foley building to save money.
Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood) called the legislation "callous" because it came while the facility was still occupied. "We should be a little more compassionate to their situation," Montano said.
"It's like trying to divide the estate before a death pronouncement," said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).
Bellone says Foley costs $1 million a month to operate at a time when the county faces a $250 million budget deficit through the end of 2014.
But Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), a proponent of keeping Foley in public hands, said Bellone never attempted to fill beds and run Foley more efficiently. "This administration sabotaged the John J. Foley nursing home and caused it to lose $1 million a month," Browning said.
Vaughn said the administration "is not responsible for the deficit that the facility is running." He noted that nursing home workers had blocked Bellone's effort to lease the home to private operators, which would have kept the facility open. "We looked at just about every permeation," he said.