Niagara County told the state Thursday that it will cost $28.8 million to close Mount View Health Facility and asked that the state supply almost $19.2 million of that.
The assertions were made in the county's application in a competitive grant process set up to help adversely affected health care facilities comply with the mandates of last year's Berger Commission report.
The commission ordered Mount View closed, and the County Legislature voted June 26 to submit a plan that calls for closing the 172-bed nursing home by June 30, 2008.
County Manager Gregory D. Lewis acknowledged in an interview that the grant application included every cost angle he and his staff could think of, in hopes of maximizing revenue.
"It's incumbent on our fiduciary duty to do it with that level of effort," he said. "If I had my druthers, I'd ask for all $28 million." But state guidelines for the grant process require each institution to pay a share.
"If we say zero, the likelihood of getting funding decreases," Lewis said.
"They're trying to get the most they possibly can. I understand that," said Legislator Harry J. Apolito, D-Lockport, an opponent of the closure of the nursing home. "I don't think they know how much it's going to cost."
"Everything is a guesstimate," Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said moments after signing the application. "Nobody knows what the reimbursement levels will be. I think this is due diligence. . . . Yeah, it's high, a lot of money. Come talk to me in 2010, and I'll tell you if it was enough money."
Thus, the county included in its application charges of $12.3 million for health insurance for retired Mount View workers several years into the future, and $4.9 million for their workers' compensation insurance. Those are costs Lewis acknowledged the county would have to pay even if Mount View were staying open.
The submission includes an estimate that the county will have to pay almost $1.85 million in unemployment benefits for about 200 Mount View workers who will lose their jobs.
The application also asserts that the county will have to pay out $2.25 million in severance packages to retain employees through the shutdown period.
The Legislature already has passed a severance package for Director of Nursing Sally M. Smith. In addition, the contract offered to Robert E. Sobon, Lewis' nominee for administrator, calls for him to receive six months' salary and benefits after the closure. Sobon will be paid $89,961 a year if he is confirmed by the Legislature.
Also included in the grant application is an estimate that it would cost $825,000 to remove asbestos and then demolish Mount View. The county has not yet decided to do that, although Lewis reiterated Thursday he thinks the county should sell the real estate. Mount View, built in 1938 as a tuberculosis sanitarium, is a five-story, 85,000-square-foot building on Upper Mountain Road in Lockport.
"We'll evaluate all options, but if we don't ask for demolition [costs] now, we won't be able to go back later," Lewis said.
Burmaster said he thinks the county's $20 million budget surplus will work against its application, but Lewis said the state needs to accept responsibility for causing the shutdown after the county had approved a deal to sell the nursing home to a private company.
Lewis said that it would be be wrong "for the state to say, 'You can take this out of your fund balance,' when they caused this to happen."