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Sun., Oct. 4
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Organizers ready for Monday’s Solidarity Day parade in Massena


MASSENA - Organized labor will take the spotlight on Monday when the 33rd annual Solidarity Day parade winds through Massena’s streets.

Labor groups, bands and local politicians will line up at 10 a.m. at Willow and Center streets and step off at 11 a.m., heading to Springs Park for a post-parade picnic for parade participants.

Guests marching in Monday’s parade include Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole Duve and St. Lawrence County coroner candidate Eric Warner.

The Massena High School Marching Band will also be part of the parade.

This year’s Solidarity Day Parade Committee co-chairs are Ronald P. McDougall, president of the Central Trades and Labor Council, and Randy Woodside, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2032.

Mr. McDougall said committee members have been meeting to plan Monday’s event.

“We’ve been getting things lined up. Now we’re just anxiously waiting. The big thing is watching the weather. A week or so ago the forecast was pretty good. Things have changed,” he said.

The forecast as of Friday is predicting showers and thunderstorms Monday morning.

“We’ll take the usual route. It takes a shortcut to get by Spanky’s, on to Main Street, down to South Main and then a huge picnic (at Springs Park, West Hatfield Street) for parade participants after recognizing organized labor,” Mr. McDougall said.

As this year’s Solidarity Day parade gets set to begin, he said there are a couple of north country issues that are on the minds of organized labor - the potential privatization of Massena Memorial Hospital and the planned relocation of inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg.

Employees are both locations belong to the Civil Services Employees Association. Some hospital employees are represented by the New York State Nurses Association.

“One of the issues in Massena is the potential privatization of the hospital, and then you go a little farther up the road to the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Those are two current issues going on right now. To a certain degree we want to make sure our voices are heard,” Mr. McDougall said.

In Massena, hospital officials have moved forward with retaining a law firm to explore transitioning from a municipal hospital to a private, non-for-profit facility. They will be working with the law firm of Hancock Estabrook, LLP, Syracuse, at a cost not to exceed $100,000.

The study will consist of three phases. Phase one will include the study of all contracts, such as vendors and employees, to see if anything would prohibit them from changing their status.

Phase two would be the implementation phase. Following approval from the Massena Town Council, they could start filing the paperwork such as the Certificate of Need to begin the conversion process.

The third and final phase would be going through the Internal Revenue Service to acquire their tax-exempt status.

Phase one could take two to three months, according to estimates, while phase two could take one to two months and phase three could go from four to six months.

MMH officials have said that, facing projected financial hurdles in the future, they need to investigate the transition from a town-owned hospital to a private, not-for-profit facility. Among the financial difficulties they face, CEO Charles F. Fahd has said, is the increase in their contribution to the state’s pension system, from $124,200 in 2002 to $4.4 million in December 2013, with a projected $4.8 million contribution in December 2014.

Mr. Fahd has also said that among the losses they’re projecting is a reduction of $10.5 million in Medicare reimbursement over the next 10 years because of the federal Affordable Care Act; a $1.9 million reduction in Medicaid reimbursement over the next 10 years because of sequestration; and a $2.7 million reduction in Medicaid reimbursement over the next 10 years because of inpatient coding adjustments.

CSEA members have said that, recognizing the hospital’s financial concerns, they have suggested money-saving alternatives that were ignored, which could have saved about $5 million.

Among them was to switch health insurance, a move that officials said would have saved from $850,000 to $1.6 million.

In Ogdensburg, the Office of Mental Health has proposed moving inpatient psychiatric services from the Ogdensburg psychiatric center to facilities in Syracuse and Utica. The state is looking to place less emphasis on costly inpatient care and put in place more community care and support for the mentally ill.

Five regional teams will make recommendations on what community services should be offered in their respective regions: Central New York, Western New York, Hudson River, New York City and Long Island. The Central New York Region includes the north country.

Three co-chairs from each regional team will also serve on a steering committee that will advise the state Office of Mental Health commissioner on a final plan to implement the recommendations.

Some of the concerns may be evident by banners being carried in Monday’s parade.

“It’s not a political parade, but it is a political issue. Certainly things of that nature would be part of it,” Mr. McDougall said.

The potential moves in Massena and Ogdensburg would impact organized labor, which has already seen a drop in its membership, according to Mr. McDougall, whose tri-county region includes St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties.

“We have just about 24,000 (members). A few years ago it was 27,000,” he said.

“Those numbers are not unlike other parts of the state and country. The great recession affected a number of things. It doesn’t matter if it’s organized labor or not,” Mr. McDougall said.

As part of Monday’s events at Springs Park, a drawing will be held to announce a $10,000 raffle winner.

Tickets to benefit Massena’s Solidarity Day Parade are now available at Frenchie’s Chevrolet.

The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 cash, with second prize of $5,000, third prize of $1,000, fourth prize of $500, fifth prize of $400, sixth prize of $300, seventh prize of $200 and eighth prize of $100.

Tickets are $10 U.S. or Canadian.

“We’re trying to raise money for underwriting the cost associated with this, which is substantial. When you’re feeding a couple thousand people, it costs money,” Mr. McDougall said.

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