Edwards wants to know who’s in favor of selling County Home

MAYVILLE – Residents of Chautauqua County may soon know officially where their legislator stands on the sale of the County Home.

County Executive Greg Edwards wants to know, too.

Two resolutions dealing with the sale of the Chautauqua County Home will be discussed Thursday by the Chautauqua County Legislature’s Audit and Control Committee. The first resolution is to authorize a contract selling the home to Altitude Health Systems Inc., a firm owned by William Avi Rothner. If the sale to Altitude Health Systems is unsuccessful, a second resolution stating the legislature’s intent to sell the home will be discussed.

“If the first resolution were to pass the full legislature, the second resolution would be ruled out of order,” wrote Stephen M. Abdella, county attorney, in a memorandum included in the committee’s pre-file agenda. “If the first resolution does not pass the full legislature, the second resolution will be available for action.”

Edwards said he believes the majority of the legislature is in favor of selling to Altitude Health Systems. If the resolution makes the floor of the full legislature later this month, 17 of the 25 legislators need to support the resolution for it to pass. The supermajority vote stems from a county law dating back to 1975 requiring a two-thirds vote for sale of real property owned by Chautauqua County.

”I believe there is support from a majority,” Edwards said. ”I don’t know if the extra (votes) are there to get it to 17.”

Altitude Health Systems would pay $16.5 million for the home, according to the resolution. The contract includes provisions stating the home will have at least 200 skilled nursing beds for at least 10 years after the sale. Altitude Health also will give preferred admissions to Chautauqua County residents as opposed to a non-county resident if the situation were to arise where there aren’t enough beds for both. Altitude Health will also keep at least 80 percent of the beds for county residents. Existing Chautauqua County Home residents will have the right to remain at the facility as long as they can afford to stay.

Edwards said, even if the resolution to sell to Altitude Health Systems doesn’t pass, the second resolution dealing with selling the County Home is necessary, too.

”I think it is an important question to be asked and answered: Are you or are you not willing to sell the County Home? All other questions have been answered,” Edwards said about asking legislators if they are in favor of selling the home, which he said is losing taxpayer money. ”Do you think it is appropriate to use more than $3 million in tax dollars to support 250 government jobs, or would you rather have 250 private sector jobs with no taxpayer dollars spent. We’ve answered the rest of the questions. It boils down to if you vote ‘no,’ you would prefer to use $3.3 million of taxes every year to support those 250 subsidized government jobs as opposed to those being 250 private sector jobs.”

As part of the discussion on selling the County Home, legislators will also discuss using $692,878 from the fund balance to go toward operating the facility. The County Home also qualifies for matching federal funds through the Intergovernmental Transfer program, also known as IGT. Edwards said to offset the losses from the County Home, $692,878 from the fund balance needs to be used, which will be matched with federal funds. This will total close to $1.4 million in taxpayer money. The county executive said more than $3.3 million will go to offset County Home losses this year.

”This is important because this crystallizes the undeniable fact this facility is losing millions a year,” he said. ”Selling the County Home is the only logical business decision to make.”

Edwards said he is encouraged legislators will approve the sale because they are feeling the pressure from county residents who no longer want taxpayer money going to fund the County Home.

”More and more legislators are coming to this understanding. I’m optimistic that the people of Chautauqua County, who pay taxes, are weighing in and saying, ‘We need this service without using taxpayer dollars,”’ Edward said. ”They are weighing in, and weighing in forcefully. I’m encouraged how things are progressing.”