As the Essex County Board of Supervisors continues to debate whether to sell the Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to meet a requirement that the facility have a sprinkler system.
Last week the board tabled a resolution to hire RBM Guardian Fire Protection of Albany for $276,000 to install a sprinkler system in Building 1. It was the only bid the county received for the work.
Final bids to buy the nursing home came in Monday from three parties. If supervisors agree to sell, a new owner could install the sprinkler system.
Board Chairman Randy Douglas said he has made numerous calls to an inspector from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is mandating the sprinkler system, to find out exactly what the agency wants the county to do.
The county could lose its ability to take Medicare and Medicaid patients if the new sprinklers aren't in place by August 2013, according to county Manager Dan Palmer. He said the county is also under a deadline to install fireproof ceiling tiles this month, although a new sprinkler system would satisfy that requirement.
If the county can't install fireproof tiles this month, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services would require a 24-hour fire watch, Palmer said.
"Essentially a maintenance person would have to go around and check every box, every part of the system, to make sure it was working during that time," he said.
Palmer said the county would like an extension on the fireproof ceiling tile mandate until at least July because supervisors may come to an agreement about the sprinkler system in the meantime. He said as of last week, the federal inspector hadn't called county officials back to clarify several concerns about what was expected of the county.
The resolution to award the sprinkler system bid to RBM Guardian was tabled because some supervisors, like North Elba's Roby Politi, felt like the county didn't have enough information from the federal inspector.
"My real question is that I just don't know how prudent it is to, at this time, be passing a resolution for something that we don't even have the answers to; it bothers me," Politi said. "I understand the need for it, but we don't even know yet what our options are."
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said she was "amazed" that the inspector failed to return the county's calls. She compared the sprinkler system mandate to a "hammer hanging over our heads.
"I don't know what is wrong with why you are not getting answers; I have watched your emails," she told Douglas. "I don't even know where this person is, but if he was local I would go knock on his door."
After tabling the resolution to award the bid to RBM Guardian, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava introduced a resolution to send the project back out to bid.
"How do you know if you are getting the best price if you only got the one bid?" he asked.
Palmer said a local sprinkler company was interested in the project. He noted that the bid from RBM Guardian came in above estimates.
"With one bid, it is kind of suspect as to what you are getting," Palmer said.