Hanging In The Balance
The future of the Chautauqua County Home could change after Tuesday’s elections.
In January, the county legislature will downsize from 25 to 19 members. In the new legislature, 13 votes would be needed for the supermajority required by the county charter to sell real property owned by the county. In previous years, in order for the sale to take place, 17 votes were needed when the legislature was comprised of 25 members.
This could affect the future of the skilled nursing facility, especially if new legislators have differing views than their predecessors.
Six uncontested incumbents have voted to sell the County Home previously, and both candidates in two districts have stated their intention to sell.
Two uncontested incumbents have voted against the sale, and in another district, both candidates have voted against the sale previously.
District 5 candidate Terry Niebel, R-C-I-Sheridan, said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of Wednesday’s voting session in Mayville.
“Nobody had really announced that they were going to change their position on the vote,” he said. “From what I can tell from the constituents in District 5, it’s about 60 percent in favor of keeping the county home and 40 for selling it. I would reflect the sentiments of my constituents, and if it were me I would vote to keep the home. Now that we’ve had that last vote, (which took place Oct. 30 and prevented the sale for the third time) now it’ll be up to the new legislature. I’m sure after they do their due diligence, they’ll vote accordingly.”
Both candidates for District 10, incumbent P.J. Wendel, R-C-Lakewood, and Sharon Lisciandro, D-Lakewood, are in favor of selling the home.
Lisciandro said she was surprised at the outcome of Wednesday’s vote.
“I’m in favor of selling the County Home, and that would be my vote (if elected). I was very surprised that it didn’t turn out that way Wednesday,” she said.
District 12 candidate Fred Larson, D-I-Jamestown, said Thursday, “If I became convinced that the county home could not break even, then I would be OK with selling it. If I’m a county legislator, come Jan. 1, I’ll do my best to find out what the real financial facts are surrounding the county home as soon as possible.”
Larson’s opponent William Prieto, R-C-Jamestown, said, “If my district’s wishes are to sell the home, then I will support that wish. If the voters say, ‘Don’t sell the home,’ then my vote will reflect the district’s choice.”
In District 11, Bob Whitney, D-Working Families-I-Jamestown, voted against the sale, while David Wilfong (R, C-Jamestown) said he is in favor of selling the home.
“After a careful review, I was able to determine that the home is presently losing well over $9,000 a month while being operated by the county,” Wilfong said recently in a news release. “What was even more surprising to me was that, during my review, I discovered that not one person in Jamestown is presently a resident of the home. In my opinion, Chautauqua County can no longer afford to run a facility that continues to operate in the red and which continues to be a drain on the taxpayers of this county. If elected, I will vote to sell the facility.”
If elected for District 16, candidate Ron Lemon, R-C-Frewsburg, would vote to sell the county home, just as incumbent Tom Erlandson, D-I-Frewsburg, voted on Oct. 30.
Lemon said he was disappointed in the outcome of the third vote.
“I think if you’re losing money with something, it doesn’t make sense to keep it,” he said, adding that a private owner could expand and possibly create more jobs. “It makes complete sense to sell it. Anybody with any business sense knows that if you’re losing, that’s just not feasible.”
Candidate for District 4 Janet Keefe, D-Working Families-I-Fredonia, said, “I believe that the County Home can be saved, and I believe that with Ron Johnson that will happen. I would vote to keep it.”
As for Keefe’s opponent Michael Sullivan, R-C-Fredonia, his stance on the sale is unknown as he could not be reached for comment.
District 18 incumbent David Himelein, R-C-I-Findley Lake, is in favor of selling the facility. His opponent Edward Carutis, D-Working Families-Sherman, could not be reached for comment.
Incumbent candidates for District 7 are John Runkle, R-C-I-Stockton, who voted in favor, and Tom DeJoe, D-Working Families-Brocton, who voted against the sale.
Incumbents Bob Scudder, R-C-Fredonia, and Bill Coughlin, D-I-Working Families-Fredonia, are running to represent District 3 and have both voted against the privatization.
Uncontested incumbents who voted against the sale include Keith Ahlstrom, D-Working Families-Dunkirk, in District 1 and Sean Heenan, D-Dunkirk, in District 2.
Uncontested incumbents who have voted for a private sector to buy the County Home include George Borrello, R-C-I-Irving, in District 6; Chuck Nazzaro, D-I-Jamestown, in District 9; Paula DeJoy, D-I-Jamestown, in District 13; Mark Tarbrake, R-C-I-Jamestown, in District 14; Jay Gould, R-C-Ashville, in District 17; and John Hemmer, R-C-I-Westfield, in District 19.
Candidates who could not be reached for comment include Amy Farnham and Susan Baldwin, D-South Dayton, in District 5; Lisa Vanstrom, R-I-West Ellicott, in District 15; and Pierre Chagnon, R-C-Bemus Point, the uncontested candidate for District 8.