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Deal with ACH still a possibility for former Cayuga County nursing home

The Citizen - 7/31/2019

Jul. 31--A proposal to turn Cayuga County's former nursing home into a homeless shelter isn't the only possibility for the facility, as a plan for Auburn Community Hospital to take over the structure is still on the table.

The Cayuga County Legislature last week approved a resolution presented by Director of Community Services Ray Bizzari to take the first steps toward converting the former nursing home in the town of Sennett, unused since 2015, to a shelter for emergency housing the county is required to provide.

Speaking to the Legislature, Bizzari said the proposal would result in significant cost savings for the county and also provide a higher level of service for those in need of housing.

The resolution approved by the Legislature authorized Bizzari to issue a request for proposals from service providers that could convert and run the facility as a homeless shelter.

Requesting such proposals does not bind the county to accept any of them, and legislators could still decide to take a different route.

One route that's still open is a plan for Auburn Community Hospital to take over the county facility and relocate its Finger Lakes Center for Living nursing home there.

That plan was in the works between the hospital and Legislature last year, going so far as to have a lease agreement drafted in March before progress stalled.

The draft agreement included terms under which the hospital would pay $2,000 per month plus utilities for 12 months, with options to renew for another year and a provision to purchase the building at a price to be negotiated.

At that time, the plan included the possibility of eventually creating a 10-bed drug and rehabilitation center at the 20 Park Ave., Auburn site of the Finger Lakes Center for Living if that office was relocated to the county property.

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Despite the lack of public discussion on the project since then, the hospital is still interested in exploring the idea, according to ACH Spokesperson Matthew Chadderdon.

According to Chadderdon, the hospital and the county have continued to have discussion about the viability of the project, which is largely contingent on available funding.

Last year, the hospital applied for a $3.5 million state grant to help with what was estimated to be the $4.6 million cost of upgrading the facility. Chadderdon said the application was not successful in the program's first round of funding, but could still be chosen in the upcoming second round, which would provide a much more solid footing from which to determine the project's feasibility.

Chadderdon also said that that the plan for a rehab center is one of several, with the other possibilities including a cancer care or women's health center.

"These are still very preliminary because it's hard for us to do anything without knowing what kind of funding will be available to us," Chadderdon said.

Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Tucker Whitman, R-Sterling, said he could not speak on the details of any ongoing real estate transfers or sales, but said the county would continue to look at all available options for the property.

Whitman said he felt Bizzzari's proposal made sense to him and sounded like "a real positive for the local community," but said they would still continue to explore whether or not that will be the case.

"It's an option and we're going to take a look at all the options we have that's in the best interest of the county," Whitman said.

Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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(c)2019 The Citizen, Auburn, N.Y.

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