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Move to fire Foley closure consultant fails

John J. Foley Nursing home in Yaphank. (April

John J. Foley Nursing home in Yaphank. (April 9, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

A move to slow the shutdown of Suffolk County's nursing home by firing the consultant handling the closure failed Tuesday at the county legislature after an emotional debate.

A resolution to terminate the $205,000 contract with CMS Compliance Group was rejected on an 11-7 vote.

Health Commissioner James Tomarken said axing the contract would heighten the "anxiety and uncertainty" of residents of the 264-bed Yaphank home, make it harder for them to relocate and delay the closing by 30 to 90 days or more. Tomarken said the contract termination would not alter the county's decision to move forward with the shutdown. So far, 38 of Foley's 200 residents have moved out.

Some lawmakers said they considered the resolution a way to make a broader point.

"This is an opportunity to make the statement as a body we don't want to close this facility," said Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue).

Union workers in a vote Friday at the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility rejected a proposal that would have kept them on the job at their county salary and benefits for 18 months if they dropped their lawsuit against a lease and eventual sale of the home.

Before the vote, Michael Finland, executive vice president of the Association of Municipal Employees, told lawmakers the union still hopes that County Executive Steve Bellone will "keep the door open" for further talks and that an "equitable plan can still be worked out." Finland said the union's lawsuit is "still pending" and the union is "weighing its options."

Earlier, lawmakers also voted 13-7 to overhaul the process for buying sensitive environmental properties in the face of dwindling resources.

The new two-step process would first authorize appraisals, and purchase priorities would be set in a separate vote.

Critics have expressed concern that the plan could delay sales and politicize choices of tracts to purchase.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said the bill will limit negotiation with sellers. "This bill will absolutely diminish my ability to be successful," he said.

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the prime backer of the bill, said the measure will allow lawmakers to make informed decisions on which properties to seek with limited dollars.

"Are we slowing down the process? Slightly. But we are going to look at these properties together," Hahn said. In other action, the legislature:

Waived $1.6 million in connection fees to the Southwest Sewer District for the Wyandanch Rising downtown project.

Confirmed the appointment of new $130,000 a year probation director Patrice Dlhopolsky[cq], a 40 year department veteran.

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