Special Meeting Called On Home

New Chautauqua County legislators have a major decision to make.

Chairman of the legislature Jay Gould, R-Ashville, confirmed Thursday that a special meeting will take place in Mayville on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Gerace Office Building concerning a prospective buyer for the Chautauqua County Home.

“All legislators will have the chance to ask questions, especially the new ones,” Gould said. “There should be a contract out in about a week, which will be sent to all the legislators.”

Newly seated representatives will decide the future of the nursing home in the coming months, as three votes within the former legislature failed to see the facility removed from county ownership.

Gould said his constituents have urged him to vote in favor of selling the County Home, and he is looking forward to the special meeting.

New legislator Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg, is also optimistic about the meeting and said the sale of the nursing home was the second biggest concern of his constituents while campaigning, next to the repeal of the SAFE Act.

“I’m glad we will be able to look at the numbers and make a fair-minded decision for the residents of the county,” Lemon said.

New legislator Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, has been doing his homework on the viability of selling the County Home versus keeping it in county hands.

Earlier in January, he said he’d already toured the County Home, spoken at length with Administrator Tim Hellwig and reviewed financial data in detail.

Additionally, he said he believes government should not compete with private enterprise.

“I will support a fair offer to purchase the home after I have given it a thorough review,” Chagnon said.

When former legislators voted on the nursing home’s privatization and special meetings were held in the past, advocates in favor of keeping it in county hands rallied outside the Gerace Office Building in Mayville with banners and T-shirts labeled, “Save The County Home.”

Residents and legislators who voted to “save it” both argued that selling the facility would displace residents who cannot afford the cost of a private nursing home. Others said a private sector company could potentially force current employees out of their positions.

On Thursday, a letter was sent to legislators from Deb Hamernick, a County Home employee who stressed the importance of keeping the nursing home out of private hands.

“Shouldn’t every chance be exhausted before we resort to losing our home to a private party?” Hamernick questioned in the letter. “Selling the County Home will not lower our taxes, but what it will do is put our most vulnerable population in jeopardy. We don’t get a ‘do over’ if the outcome of a sale turns sour.”

Hamernick is one of many north county residents in favor of keeping the home under county ownership.

New legislator Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia, agrees with some of the legislators who preceeded her and voted against its privatization.

“Jobs will be lost. We’ll have to pay for unemployment, pensions and benefits,” she said. “There are a lot of ways to save the County Home.”

However, with the Republican supermajority of the new legislature, the home is more likely to be sold. In the last vote, only one outgoing Republican voted against the sale, Bob Duff, R-Sheridan.

The other Republican who voted against the sale was Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, the new District 3 legislator.

Since the last vote, 13 elected officials have bid farewell to the County Legislature, six of whom voted against the sale of the County Home.

In the third vote, nine legislators voted against the sale of the County Home to VestraCare at a cost of $16.5 million, which broke down to $80,000 per bed.

Now, only 13 votes are needed in order for the nursing home to be privatized. This translates to a two-thirds vote.