Privatize Willow Point? (We Already Tried That)

Dave Duncan

Q.  What value do poor, sick, and old people have?

A. They can be money makers for private   companies.

There is much political talk today about plans for the County to sell the Willow Point Nursing Home to private developers. A man, with a history of privatizing nursing homes has been appointed by the County as the administrator of Willow Point.

A History of the Willow Point Nursing Home

For many years, Broome County owned and operated an infirmary for 130 poor, sick, older people. There was also a waiting list.  The infirmary was located on Upper Front St at the site where Broome Community College is today.  There was no profit to be made on taking care of these people, so the community did.  It was a social program that civilized communities provided.

Along Came Medicare and Medicaid and an Opportunity to Turn a Buck on the Sick and Elderly

In 1965, under President Lyndon Johnson, the Medicare and Medicaid programs were passed and the nation committed itself to providing health care for those seniors and poor. It also opened the door for profits. Those old and sick in the infirmary were now worth something.

Privatizing the Infirmary

In August 1967, Doctors John Spring and Charles Aswad sent a letter to Broome County Executive Edwin Crawford, on behalf of the Willow Point Land Company. The doctors and five others were the principals in the Land Company.  This company proposed to build and lease a nursing home to Broome County. The doctors stated that they did not make this proposal in anticipation of a bonanza in the health field but because they felt that there was an urgent need for a facility of this type in the area.

All Dollar Figures are Calculated in 2012 Values

In September, 1967 Broome County entered into a lease agreement whereby the County would pay $1,237,132 annually for the proposed Willow Point Nursing Home. The county also agreed to pay all taxes, assessments, insurance, repairs and operating costs—a so-called “net-net” lease. This lease agreement allowed the investors to put up a minimal amount of money with no financial risk. The investors, under this agreement made a profit of $75,000 each per year. In February 1969 the Willow Point Nursing Home took in the first of the elderly patients.  The Drs. Spring and Aswad were appointed its medical and assistant medical directors.

Another Facility Added at No Financial Risk to “Investors”

In April, 1971 Broome County entered into another agreement with the Willow Point Land Company. This time a Health Related Facility was to be constructed to accompany the existing nursing home.  It was the same “net-net” type lease with the county agreeing to pay annual rent of $1,969,043 and all cost of operation. The annual profit for the partners in the Willow Point Land Trust was $238,861.

County Purchase (Another Financial Windfall)

Less than one year later, Broome County decided to exercise the option to buy the two facilities. On New Year’s Eve 1973, the County paid $7,439,438 to take title to the property. Two days later on Jan. 2nd another county check for $20,112,008 was sent to the Willow Point Land Company. The reason given was that the payment stretched over two years (really only two calendar days) and that the principals in the Willow Point Land Company could save $149,000 each in taxes.  If the County had waited 32 days until the sixth year of the nursing home lease the county could exercise its option to buy at a savings of $25,808.

The cost of building the properties by the Willow Point Land Company was $22,636,799. The purchase price paid by the County was $35,722,133. When added to the annual profits made by the private partners, privatization of the Willow Point Facility was a serious financial mistake for taxpayers.

 See the Next Posting  On How and Where to Contact Your Legislator and the County Exec About Keeping Willow Point Public!


One Comment on “Privatize Willow Point? (We Already Tried That)”

  1. Don Doornbos says:

    Privatizing would be another blow to the middle class and to the elderly: pay nursing home employees half as much with half as much benefits forcing them to get another job to stay afloat and have less energy for their job, higher turnover as they look for higher paying work and less institutional knowledge and caring available for our elderly. Sounds like a guaranteed lose – lose for we the 99%! But lately that’s par for course in Broome County!

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