Legislators split on bringing County Home resolutions to the table

MAYVILLE – County Executive Greg Edwards may want to know where legislators stand on the sale of the Chautauqua County Nursing Home, but they appear to be split in even bringing the resolutions to the table next week.

The Human Services Committee heard from Edwards and County Attorney Steve Abdella on Wednesday, regarding a resolution authorizing the sale of the County Home to Altitude Health Systems Inc. Additionally, it heard from fellow legislator Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, regarding a resolution of intent to sell the County Home. The Audit and Control Committee will also hear the resolutions this morning.

According to a memo to both committees from Edwards, “If the first resolution were to pass the full Legislature, the second resolution would be ruled out of order. If the first resolution does not pass the full Legislature, the second resolution will be available for action.”

Abdella provided a background of the negotiations with the committee. The negotiations were assisted by outside counsel which deals with commercial real estate, as Abdella himself has not practiced commercial real estate in about 20 years. He also considered potentially utilizing health law counsel, as the negotiations are surrounding a nursing home.

Although Edwards and Abdella were hoping to bring the resolution to sell the County Home to the legislature last month, negotiations with William (Avi) Rothner were only completed last Friday.

The legislators had an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments to Edwards and Abdella.

“I’m comfortable with the contract, and I need to congratulate Steve and his team on the work that was done,” said Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point.

Committee chairman Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, and John Hemmer, R-Westfield, echoed Horrigan’s comments. However, Timothy Hoyer, D-Jamestown, and Victoria James, D-Jamestown, had reservations on the resolution.

“We have been going kind of slow on this, taking our time, making sure things are right,” James said. “Right now, I just feel kind of rushed at this eleventh hour … I know that outside, our constituents are getting a little antsy, telling us to ‘sell, sell, sell, make a decision to sell.’ At least, that’s what I’m getting from my constituents. But, to do my due diligence, I would feel much more comfortable having the next voting session, at least, to be able to read this, absorb it and make an intelligent decision.”

The committee voted 3-2 in favor of the resolution, with Hoyer and James as nay votes. Barmore then had an opportunity to present his resolution to the committee.

“I’m here tonight because I want to save the County Home,” Barmore said. “The only way we are going to save the County Home is to stop the losses that it has now and make it a facility that can pay for itself. The only way we can do that is to sell it to a private interest.”

Barmore said his resolution is asking whether legislators would vote to sell the County Home if all excuses were taken away.

“The people in this county want to know where each and every one of us stand on this issue,” he said. “If a buyer is here that you think is wonderful, if you have a contract in front of you that you think is wonderful, you’ve had plenty of time to read it and understand it, no changes need to be made and the proper lawyers have drafted this legal document and you can’t find any excuse whatsoever not to vote on it, will you vote to sell or won’t you?”

After some additional discussion, the committee once again voted 3-2 in favor of the resolution, with Hoyer and James voting against it.