No Sale, No Change

MAYVILLE – After a meeting lasting nearly four hours, no change has been made in regard to the Chautauqua County Home.

Wednesday night, the County Legislature heard more than an hours worth of comments during the privilege of the floor, many relating to the nursing facility. On the agenda were two resolutions relating to the County Home. The first resolution was a renewed resolution authorizing contract for the sale of the Chautauqua County Home to Altitude Health Systems, a resolution which was also heard – and voted down – in January.

The second resolution relating to the home was a local law amending a 1975 local law which requires a supermajority vote in the sale of real property in Chautauqua County. The law was supported by Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville; George Borrello, R-Irving; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood; Fred Croscut, R-Sherman; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; and John Hemmer, R-Westfield.

However, before the legislature addressed the County Home, they addressed a motion calling for the repeal of the NY SAFE Act. The motion was taken out of order by legislators, as the legislative chambers was at standing-room-only, with many residents supporting the motion.

“Our liberty is being taken away one drop at a time, not as a ploy, but a little bit at a time,” Borrello said. “At the end of the day, the constitution needs to be upheld and our rights need to be preserved, and that’s why I’m voting in favor of this.”

The motion passed the legislature 21-3. Voting against the motion were Bob Duff, R-Irving; Timothy Hoyer, D-Jamestown, and DeJoy. Victoria James, D-Jamestown, was absent from the meeting.

Legislators then spent time discussing the renewed resolution to sell the County Home to Altitude Health Services. They discussed its financial situation, as well as the potential purchaser, William (Avi) Rothner. However, after much discussion, when a role-call vote was taken, not a single legislator voted differently than they had in January. The vote was defeated, with 15 legislators voting in favor of selling the home, two short of the required supermajority.

When the second County Home resolution was discussed, legislators discussed being consistent on what type of items would require a supermajority vote, as well as putting the resolution to a public vote to allow county residents to decide whether they would like a supermajority vote to continue to be required when selling real property.

“It is my intention to pass this local law, and then we will let the people of Chautauqua County in November decide whether they want us to do this or whether they don’t,” Barmore said. “We will let the public speak.”

Several legislators also spoke of their feelings of changing the local law to only require a majority vote. DeJoy then spoke up, saying that comments during the meeting caused her to change her mind in supporting the resolution.

“I was originally supporting this local law,” DeJoy said. “Then, I heard some of my fellow legislators, who also support the amendment … complain and criticize Gov. Cuomo on how he went about passing the SAFE Act in his duplicable way … We are essentially doing the same by changing the rules of the game after the vote has already been taken.”

During the discussion, Erlandson also said he was no longer in support of the resolution. Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia, also spoke against changing the law.

“(The law) was passed to save us from doing stupid things, like selling assets to plug budget holes,” Coughlin said. “That’s why it was passed, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to plug a budget hole by selling the County Home.”

Barmore motioned to table the resolution. However, the motion to table it was defeated 13-11. The legislature then voted on amending the local law. It was also defeated, with 10 legislators voting to change the law, and 14 voting against the change.

Voting in favor of the change were Barmore, Borrello, Croscut, Gould, Hemmer, Himelein, Horrigan, Stewart, Tarbrake and Wendel.

Finally, also discussed at the meeting, was a resolution by Hoyer, amending the rules and regulations of the Chautauqua County Legislature to no longer say a prayer during meetings, instead reciting an oath of office. The resolution was defeated 18-5. Voting in favor of the change were Coughlin, Erlandson, Hoyer, Rogers and Robert Whitney, D-Jamestown. Duff had left the meeting following the County Home discussion.