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County Home Comments
December 15, 2011 - Dunkirk OBSERVER
Posted by Nicholas L. Dean
The County Legislature approved a resolution Wednesday supporting the selection of a marketing firm for the County Home.
The proposal passed in a 13 to 11 vote with one member absent.
Today's paper features details of last night's meeting and vote. That article can be read by clicking here.
What follows is a partial transcription of some of the conversation had by lawmakers regarding the proposal.
The proposal to remove the issue from the table and bring it back to the floor passed in a 14 to 10 vote.
The legislators quoted, in order, are Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; John Gullo, D-Fredonia; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, and Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood:
The first that I heard of this was something on the local radio this morning where this was coming back because it just wasn't, after all of the discussion last month — all of the discussion was focusing on that we would leave this for the eight new legislators.
But the thought that crossed my mind was as the eight new legislators, and certainly the legislators that are leaving, I'm sure that they will remember the first time that you get mail addressed to yourself as a legislator and it says "The Honorable."
There is nothing honorable about, in November, saying that we will wait for eight new legislators to come and then in December, without giving the people that have a stake in this any notice that we're going to be discussing it, to bring it back to the floor.
That is not an honorable action.
I don't know what the discussions have been during the month. I read then later in the day in the paper that there were discussions between Democrats and the Republican leadership about bringing this back. But I don't know what that discussion could possibly entail that would have three legislators change their votes from last month to this month. That is not the honorable thing to do. That is not... and... as... especially... We have some legislators that are here tonight that are leaving after distinguished careers in this legislature. I would be embarrassed to have one of my last actions be something as dishonorable as this, that we are looking at taking the voice away from a good segment of our work force, from a good segment of the county.
And I heard today your comment, Mr. Chairman, that if the county executive wanted to do this then he could do this. If the county executive wants to do this then do this and put us out of our misery. But we made a decision, as a legislature.
How can we have any, how can the public have any faith in any of the decisions that we make if we intentionally try to shut off people from debate by bringing something back to the floor without the proper method. And proper is probably the wrong word because certainly this is legal within the rules of the legislature to do, I will not argue that.
It is not honorable amongst the men and the women of this room to attempt to do something like this tonight when you have allowed everybody to believe for the last month that this was an issue that was going to be dealt with in January.
I'd make a motion to table this and put it back on the table.
(The vote to table the proposal failed with 13 "no" votes and 11 "yes" votes.)
I think that there is an element of disrespect in our proceeding on this matter in the absence of Mr. Runkle.
I don't think any of us expected this to come back this month. I am certain that Mr. Runkle would have changed his plans had he known because, of course, as in my district, a sizable portion of the populace cares about this issue in Mr. Runkle's district.
And I think it is inappropriate to act when there isn't adequate notice. I think it is very inappropriate and disrespectful to do so and I would say so on behalf of any of the rest of you under these circumstances.
We've been working on this issue for two to three years now. You talk about dishonor? Dishonor would be passing it on to the new guys coming next month instead of handling it ourselves. We've been working on this. It's our job not to shirk our responsibilities, but to move forward.
And we're not voting to sell the County Home. We are voting to look into options and one of those options would be to accept offers to see what kind of offers are out there. It's going to take 17 votes of this legislature to act on anything that may come before us, so it's not going to get railroaded through on anyone in this legislature or in this county. And the longer that we continue to delay this process, we're just passing it on down the road and any options that we may have will just diminish.
Some of you people were here many years ago when we went through this with the manor oak nursing home. It was debated so long that the nursing home ended up closing down, every employee lost their job and we sold the dilapidated building for $20,000. I don't want to see that happen to the County Home. The County Home is a fine establishment and we need to look into all options as quickly as possible and stop procrastinating.
We have been updated on this issue from Mr. Hellwig numerous times in committee.
He has been to our committee meetings quite a few times this year. He was there at our October budget hearing and I believe we have gotten enough information to move forward on this issue.
I was elected for a 24-month term to serve the people of Lakewood and Busti and Chautauqua County for 24 months, not 23 or 22 months.
I did serve on the committee looking at the home that was set up by the former chairman, Mr. Ahlstrom, and I was honored to be on that committee.
I am a physician. I think I'm up to speed on many issues that are going on with healthcare. I have read the Chautauqua County long-term care referral health report that was done this year in April.
There is a definite need for more assisted living beds in the northern part of the county. We are probably overbedded in the county for nursing home beds, but we have a deficiency in the north end for assisted living.
I think it's in the county's, the people of Chautauqua County's, best interest to see if we can get more assisted living beds up in the north end and I do not think our county should be in the business of running a nursing home. I think it's a great nursing home. I think the people that work there are great. I think that they will continue to work there.
I am not going to be on the legislature next year, but we can put stipulations in on the sale and the people who make bids and I would recommend that the future legislators, assuming this goes through, to put in those restrictions and things. And you have that ability to do that, protecting jobs, making sure that it's a - if it is sold, it's sold as a nursing home. It could be a not for profit. It could go to a not for profit in the local community, such as Lutheran or the Heritage Group. It could be a for profit.
But again, I believe this legislature will make a decision. If they do to sell it, it's going to be a high-quality organization, for profit or not for profit. The jobs will be protected. Then more assisted living beds will be added to the northern county and the people of Chautauqua County will be better served and we actually may save some money too in the long run, but I think helping the people of Chautauqua County, the elderly, I think they will be better served in the longrun so I was willing to debate it last month. I do feel it's an honorable vote. I believe in efficient government. I don't think that us running the nursing home business, it obviously is not efficient. It has been running, losing money.
The people elected me to serve for two years and I don't intend at stopping a month or two short.
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Legislator Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, makes a point during discussion about the County Home.