I wasn’t in attendance at last month’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast where guest speaker HealthAlliance CEO Dave Scarpino updated plans for the ongoing consolidation of what used to be Kingston and Benedictine hospitals. But I’ll bet a few folks coughed up their cornflakes when Scarpino said it might cost upwards of $88 million to complete the job.
Wasn’t this the same outfit that burned through $47 million of state money about half a dozen years ago to achieve essentially the same purpose? And now they want almost twice as much? (Scarpino was not CEO at the time.)
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who may have gulped at the latest price tag, said these things need to be put in perspective. He believes the original $47 million of state funding, which he helped secure, has been well-spent. “It kept our hospitals open, kept most of those jobs,” he said, though he’s by no means on board with the latest proposal.
Some $24 million of the initial state grant went to pay down hospital debt, which accrues to the bottom line, which can attract would-be partners, “probably Westchester,” Cahill said, which is where HealthAlliance seems headed. Equal shares of the remainder were used for capital updates at both hospitals, though committing $17 million to reconfigure an emergency room at one facility only to abandon it (as planned) to build a new one at the other still rankles.
“The bottom line,” said Cahill, “is that our hospitals are still open and their updated facilities have future use.”
But Scarpino and crew should not necessarily expect another massive state bailout, the assemblyman said. “It will take a combination of financing, grants for sure, loans and affiliations, investments on the part of their affiliates, probably, selling or leasing of assets. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but waiting for a state grant is not a business plan.”
Cahill observed that different solutions are called for under different circumstances. “Eight years ago, there was no such thing as the Affordable Care Act or managed Medicare,” he said. “The whole dynamic has changed. Only the greatest visionary would have envisioned this.”
Change was not going to stop. “When we’re done,” he predicted, “there will be only a few major players. Health care will look like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.”
In the meantime, HealthAlliance needs to convince its stakeholders it’s on the right track, wherever that might lead.
Up the DEP
It may be entirely fitting and proper that an oft-quasi-military outfit, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection police, established their training center in the former Army Reserve center on Flatbush Avenue in Kingston.
Named for World War II Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Robert H. Dietz of Kingston, the reserve center was declared government surplus when the Army announced plans to build what is now the Sean Farrell Army Reserve center on Old King’s Highway south of Saugerties.
The feds give public entities first dibs on these properties. The city and the school district had expressed interest. If developers were interested in a well-maintained property with ready railroad access, their inquiries didn’t rise to public disclosure.
In any event, the facility is a good fit for training future DEP police officers. There was a time not that long ago when those officers were looked upon as a kind of rent-a-cop, especially by motorists snagged in the Bermuda Triangle on Route 28 west where Ulster cops, state troopers, sheriff’s patrols and later DEP cops converged. At least one local town judge refused to honor traffic tickets written by DEP cops, contending they had jurisdiction only on reservoir property. The courts decided otherwise. Others looked on DEP police as an asset, providing another level of police protection at no direct cost to local taxpayers.
It is in that spirit, then, that the city should welcome the DEP training center, which incidentally will retain the name of hometown hero Robert H. Dietz, killed in action in Germany 70 years ago on March 29.
To borrow a malaprop from a long-gone alderman, when it comes to politics and government, how do you separate the wheat from the shaft?
That’s essentially the dilemma Ulster Town Supervisor Jim Quigley confronted when he left the private sector to lead town government back from the brink of financial calamity more than five years ago. The fact is, as Quigley has now learned to his considerable chagrin, government and politics can’t be separated. They are intrinsically bound up with each other.
Last week, Quigley announced he was resigning because of “politics.” A few hours later, after entreaties from town officials, he changed his mind, blaming “politics.” Public reaction was swift and critical. As Quigley may have learned from this recent debacle, if you’re in politics, to some extent you have to play the game.
Not all of this is on Quigley, an intense, committed A-type personality who does not suffer fools or politicians gladly. Quick to grasp the most complex of issues and decisive, he can also be impulsive and arbitrary, as witnessed by last week’s flip-flop.
That long-simmering resentment over political interference in government was a factor cannot be dismissed. But as Quigley well knows, boss politics has been a longstanding tradition in the Town of Ulster.
Years ago when I broke in, Joe Lohmaier was both town Republican chairman and assessor. So is his successor, Jim Maloney.
Lohmaier attended all town board meetings where he would sit in the front row left, and either nod or shake his head on whatever legislation was being considered. The town board would respond accordingly.
It’s likely Quigley will finish the last six months of his term — he was at his desk on Monday — but perhaps not without some parting politics of his own.
Quigley cites the way Maloney and his committee handled the recent appointment of Linda McDonough as town clerk as a reason for resigning, which sounds really petty. He liked even less some of the procedures the new clerk put in place. By the way, that “recommendation” from the town GOP committee was unanimously approved by the town board, including the supervisor. Nonetheless, Quigley may run a candidate of his own for town clerk at the August caucus of the town committee. If so, we will then have a definitive read of where political power rests in Ulster. Boss Quigley? Somewhere Joe Lohmaier is laughing.
Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be … state legislators.
With this week’s unsurprising federal indictment of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, two of the “three men in the room” last January are now facing felony bribery charges. Last winter, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver “did the right thing” by his caucus and resigned his speakership, but did not leave office. He now occupies a back bench in the Assembly. Skelos, as of this writing, has not made those decisions, and the Senate GOP caucus on Monday night decided to stand by him. Local state Sen. John Bonacic has been one of the first to call on his “friend” and long-time colleague to resign, but with a caveat, it seems.
“You never know what [legislators] are doing down in their districts,” Bonacic said, according to published reports. That apparently meant that at least in Bonacic’s judgment the alleged sins of Skelos were home-grown, not Albany based. As Bonacic, a lawyer, no doubt appreciates, such under the law is a difference without a distinction. Crookery has no borders.