The Rockland County Legislature’s Planning & Public Works and Budget & Finance committees held a joint meeting Wednesday night to speak with consultants hired to help the legislature look into the various options for what to do with Summit Park.
At the legislature's meeting last week, the group presented its report on Summit Park in Pomona, recommending the county seek state approval to form a Public Benefit Company (PBC) to own and operate Summit Park Nursing Care Center and possibly Summit Park Hospital as well. The report also recommended Rockland shift county-operated mental health services to non-profits.
On Wednesday, the legislators discussed the report with the consultants while trying to figure out what to do about the future of Summit Park. One of the consultants, Eugene Laks of Hiscock & Barclay, said the setup is called a Public Benefit Corporation because “it serves a public purpose and because the employees of the PBC continue to be members of the union and continue to be members of the public retirement system.” Aside from that, he added, it’s a completely separate entity.
Laks also said that if the county sold Summit Park to a PBC, it would no longer have the responsibility of the subsidy paid above and beyond its intergovernmental transfer (IGT), or transfer from one level of the government to another. Legislator Alden Wolfe said the county gets IGT money which it must then match.
“It would be fair to characterize the difference between a sale to a third party and a sale to a PBC as the sale to a third party being an immediate cutoff of county responsibility, including the IGT, and the PBC would be a phaseout of the county responsibility,” Wolfe said.
The county could still provide money to the PBC, should it sell to one, if it works out an agreement in the discussions with the PBC, Laks said. He also said there is a state formula to determine IGTs. Wolfe expressed disappointment because it’s not really possibly to have a “definite projection for the benefit of a PBC” because it all depends on the deal between the corporation and the county, including items like layoffs and the county’s continued obligation.
“I was under a misconception about what the report was going to give us,” Wolfe said. “I thought the report was going to give us some real financials, and something that we can hang our hat on.”
He wasn’t the only legislator to express disappointment in the report. Legislator Joseph Meyers opened the meeting by asking the consultants if anything was changed between the first copy of the report they were given last week and an updated copy they received this week. Project Manager David Bonk of Toski & Co. went over a minor change in one of the tables in the report, but Meyers had a concern about the opening of report.
At last week’s meeting, Meyers questioned the consultants about an early paragraph that said the consultants based their recommendation on the assumption that the legislature wanted to have a strong public presence. In the second version of the report, those lines were not included anymore.
“I voted against having a consultant because I have this judgement, which might be right or might be wrong, about the way politics works is that you hire a consultant to come to a conclusion that you want them to come to, and I’m very worried about that sort of thing,” Meyers said. “I just thought the whole thing would be engineered. When I saw this paragraph last week, I was very upset the whole thing had been engineered.”
Bonk said the consultants took out the lines because they were worded poorly and the didn’t accurately reflect how they came to their recommendations.
In addition to selling Summit to a PBC or outside company, another possibility discussed was try to reinvent it. Legislator Ilan Schoenberger said he and Legislator John Murphy discussed reinventing Summit and making it a facility to takes care of patients with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Legislator Aney Paul asked about changing Summit to more of a residential mental health care facility for youths, or a facility for pediatrics. Chariwoman of the Legislature Harriet Cornell asked the consultants to look into some niche possibilities for reinventing Summit to make it more profitable.