Following months of discussion, the Putnam County Legislature voted 7-2 to discontinue its operation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and transfer the program to Open Door family medical center in Brewster during votes taken at a special meeting on July 24.
Voting against the transfer of WIC last week were Legislators Nancy Montgomery and William Gouldman.
As she has been for months, Montgomery expressed strong opposition to the transfer of WIC.
Montgomery said the vote should have held at the Legislature’s regularly scheduled meeting in August, which would be more accessible to the public and a public hearing was taking place as the same time as the special meeting was being held. But board Legislature Chairman Joe Castellano said all members were available to attend the special meeting and two legislators would not be available for the Aug. 6 meeting. “It’s such an important issue” that the entire board should vote on it, he said. The plan to move WIC has been discussed by committees of the Legislature for months, he added.
Montgomery said she was concerned about the county employees who could lose their jobs because of the WIC move to Open Door, including one employee who is one year from qualifying for a pension.
“We’re cheating an employee out of her retirement and that’s very unfortunate,” Montgomery said. “I don’t believe this is necessary. We have a contract with the state for funding. That contract doesn’t end for another year.”
Montgomery said supporters of moving WIC have said the county is making efforts to find alternative positions for those who would lose their jobs but the Legislature is voting on the transferring of the program to Open Door without assurances that those people would have a job.
She added that proponents of the WIC move also said Open Door would consider hiring the county employees who would be fired by the county, but Open Door is still advertising for the jobs to administer WIC on the Internet, despite interviewing the county employees, Montgomery said.
Among the legislators supporting the move of WIC was Legislator Toni Addonizio. “The loss of county jobs as the result of discontinuing WIC is very important to me,” she said. “The Personnel Department is working diligently to find jobs and I am that told they are very confident.”
Addonizio said was “very, very impressed” with the facilities of Open Door in Brewster.
Transferring WIC would “provide more opportunities and more efficiency for people who need WIC,” she said, adding Open Door offers many services to its clients including health and dental care.
Another of the WIC transfer supporters was Legislator Ginny Nacerino who said Open Door was “stellar” and provided many services for its clients. The state wanted the county to transfer WIC to Open Door no later than Oct. 1. The potential move of WIC was discussed “in great detail” by committees of the county Legislature, she said.
“We are doing the right thing for the right reasons,” Nacerino said.