Human Services Committee talks more Home sale

MAYVILLE – It was a busy night in Mayville for the Human Services Committee, which discussed the potential sale of the County Home, the upcoming countywide drug forum and a Welfare to Work update.

A resolution stating that the 2014 adopted budget reflected a $2.6 million operating deficit for the County Home was discussed. Legislators will vote next week on whether or not to privatize the facility.

“Do we have any idea what the potential savings will be to the taxpayers?” asked Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg.

“Obviously, one of the challenges is our health care costs and retirement costs,” said Vince Horrigan, county executive. “Those will be ending and in the future we will not have them.”

Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia, said she had not received an answer as to why potential purchaser VestraCare’s Vice President Edward Farben-blum had lowered his offer of $16.5 million in 2013 to $16 million in January.

“When we had the initial discussion (in October), there was a request from the legislature to extend the decision another month,” Horrigan responded, explaining that the sale was voted down shortly after. “When we went back again, we wanted the same offer and Farbenblum said he would hold it at $16 million and wouldn’t accept any less.”

Horrigan went on to explain VestraCare’s additional offer for $1 million in capital improvements to the County Home.

“I think we’re fortunate that we got the offer that we have now, rather than still being stuck,” Lemon said.

Horrigan also provided a chart of New York skilled nursing facility sales, put together by Marcus & Millichap, the County Home’s marketing firm.

“I thought it might be helpful when you’re trying to look at the potential sale,” Horrigan said.

The chart compared private and government-owned nursing homes and their prices per nursing bed.

VestraCare’s offer breaks down to $74,074 per bed at the County Home, the fifth highest on a list of 18 nursing homes, while others had values as low as $20,000 per bed.

“Due to the current fiscal challenges facing county government, including the continued strain of unfunded mandates and the continued projected financial losses at the County Home, it is no longer in the best interest of the county to own, operate or maintain the County Home, and the property is surplus and no longer necessary for public use,” stated the resolution.

Keefe and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia voted against the resolution, while Lemon and Dave Wilfong, R-Jamestown, voted to approve the resolution and sale of the County Home. Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, was absent.

In other matters, Horrigan spoke of the county’s Welfare to Work program.

“We’ve had $7.7 million in cost avoidance through front end detection,” he said of social services’ efforts to prevent fraud when it comes to welfare. “Our participation rate has gone from 10 percent to 21 percent in the last 13 months. That’s only 2.8 percent away from upstate. These are positive numbers all around.

Lastly, Patricia Brinkman, director of Mental Hygiene, also attended the meeting to discuss the upcoming countywide drug forum on March 12 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Chautauqua Suites in Mayville.

The focus of the forum will be the county’s drug epidemic, particularly heroin.

“We’re very interested in promoting that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing,” Brinkman said. “We hope to have work groups formed and to come up with actions that continue over time. This is the first step in a strategic planning process that leads to action and puts us in a better place.”