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St. Lawrence County legislators rally to save Kinney Nursing Home in Gouverneur


CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators joined Monday with the Gouverneur village Board of Trustees in opposing the closure of Kinney Nursing Home.

“Every one of us has the possibility of ending up in a nursing home,” said the Rev. Robert F. LaVeck, president of the Greater Gouverneur Council of Churches and head of a community task force trying to keep the nursing home open. “The only thing that matters is who comes to visit you. It’ll kill people if we shut that place down.”

The state Health Department is reviewing a closure plan for the nursing home, which was carried financially for years by E.J. Noble Hospital. E.J. Noble became Gouverneur Hospital Jan. 1 under the auspices of a parent organization that oversees it and Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

“The Health Department could be approving that any day,” Legislator Donald A. Peck, D-Gouverneur, said. “It’s probably too late in the process to stop this.”

But political support may convince the Health Department to consider other options.

“The solution is to find better ways to improve that nursing home,” Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, said. “The facility is there. Don’t have an empty building. Expand the building.”

Rather than keep Kinney Nursing Home at 40 beds, an adjacent section of Gouverneur Hospital, left empty when E.J. Noble put up a new building, could be used to increase the number of nursing home beds for a more efficient model, Mr. MacKinnon said. As part of the plan to keep health care in the community, Gouverneur Hospital has a critical-access designation limiting its inpatient beds to 25, which freed up more space.

“It’s those options we need to look at,” Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg, said. “We certainly don’t need to lose any more jobs.”

The Rev. Mr. LaVeck said the task force is comfortable with making the nursing home larger.

“Let’s find a way to make that possible,” he said. “I want to see a voice. I want to see a political super hero go to Albany.”

Legislator Kevin D. Acres was the only lawmaker not to approve the resolution of support. He abstained because he did not think it was the Legislature’s role to involve itself in the affairs of a nonprofit organization but did not want a “no” vote to be interpreted that he favored closure.

“This is a no-win situation,” he said. “It’s a very emotional thing.”

While a majority of legislators found common ground on the nursing home, they put off deciding whether to hire an engineer for the Highway Department.

Highway Superintendent Donald R. Chambers wanted to fill an engineer’s position that is included in the 2014 budget to oversee federal construction management projects rather than hire a consultant to do the work. However, legislators asked him to conduct a cost analysis and also determine how the county handles town requests for assistance.

“I’m concerned about budget over the next few years,” Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton, said. “I cannot support this without more information.”

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