County audit committee attempts to move Home sale forward

MAYVILLE – As if foretold by Wednesday’s Human Services Committee, legislators on Thursday also voiced varying points of view regarding resolutions to sell the Chautauqua County Home.

George Borrello, R-Irving, pointed out during Thursday’s Audit and Control Committee meeting, legislators are using stall tactics to delay the vote, which is intended to happen next Wednesday during the full legislature meeting.

“We can sit here all day,” Borrello said. “We can say we’re going to put in the contract that they always have to have Milky Way bars in the vending machines. Where does it stop? My point is, I think we have negotiated in good faith. We have a contract that is a great contract above and beyond our expectations. Anything we do to go back and change that contract is going to open up the possibility of the offer price changing or anything else.”

Like the Human Services Committee, legislators in the Audit and Control Committee heard from County Executive Greg Edwards and County Attorney Steve Abdella, regarding a resolution authorizing the sale of the County Home to Altitude Health Systems Inc.

Additionally, it heard a resolution from legislator Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, who was not at the meeting, regarding a resolution of intent to sell the County Home.

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.”

Legislators at the meeting raised some concerns with the agreement between the county and potential purchaser William (Avi) Rothner. Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, brought up a question as to whether Rother and Altitude Health Services would be eligible for a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency.

“Government incentives are given to close a deal, to get a person to a contract,” Edwards said. “Here, we have a signed contract. We don’t need to incentivize them any further to go forward with the purchase.”

John Runkle, R-Stockton and committee chairman, expressed he is concerned with the financial health of the county.

“Unless we make structural changes in county government, we are going to continue to be in a deficit situation,” Runkle said. “Unless we look at these things, unless we look at the airport, unless we look at the landfill and all of our assets on what’s best and what is going to keep the tax base down, we’re going to be in the same predicament.”

The committee voted to pass the resolution with Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, as the only opposing vote. Heenan did not comment on his vote during the meeting.

The Audit and Control Committee then moved on to the resolution proposed by Barmore. As Barmore was not in attendance at the meeting, the resolution was introduced by Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point. Borrello also spoke up regarding the resolution.

“I just want to caution people about this, about the politics of it,” Borrello said. “The politics of it is, this particular piece of legislation doesn’t mean anything … The reality is, ‘If all the conditions were right, would you vote to sell the County Home?’ Realistically, other than a couple legislators who feel government should be in the job of health care, I would say everybody could vote ‘yes’ to this in confidence.”

Once again, Heenan opposed the resolution, as did Thomas DeJoe, D-Brocton. Borrello, Runkle, Nazzaro and David Himelein, R-Findley Lake, voted in favor. Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood, was absent from the meeting.