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State sued over fate of Mount View

Niagara County followed through Friday on its plan to sue the state for derailing the sale of Mount View Health Facility, the county-owned nursing home here.

The lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court demands unspecified damages because the state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century recommended that Mount View cease operation as a nursing home and be replaced by an assisted living facility -- which the county refuses to build because of the cost.

It also seeks an injunction preventing the state from closing Mount View.

The County Legislature had voted Dec. 19 to file the suit by the end of the year.

In June, it voted to sell Mount View to Senior Associates, an Amherst company, for $2.4 million. But the deal hadn't closed when the commission issued its decisions in late November.

Because the State Legislature did not exercise its authority to override the commission's decisions, they are scheduled to take effect Sunday. Niagara County no longer would be allowed to sell the facility because once the commission's mandates are in force, it won't be allowed to operate a nursing home.

"There's some real substantive issues being raised," County Manager Gregory D. Lewis said. "States are not normally allowed to come in and interfere with private contracts without compensation."

The 15-page complaint, drafted by attorneys Brian D. Gwitt and Jennifer M. Catherine of the Buffalo firm Damon & Morey, lists 11 reasons for seeking damages.

In addition to the allegation that the county's property is being taken illegally, the suit claims that the law establishing the commission was unconstitutional.

It also charges that the commission violated the Open Meetings Law by holding private deliberations, that its report treats Mount View differently from other nursing homes that were allowed to stay open, and that the closures violate the State Constitution's mandate for "aid, care and support of the needy."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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