Editor's note: This is part two of three focusing on a League of Women Voter's debate between District 25 Legislator candidates William Coughlin and Michael Sullivan.
Many hot-button issues, and how each candidate stands on each, will be on the minds of voters as they head to the polls on Nov. 6. Several issues such as privatization of the county home, airports and future of social services in Dunkirk were debated during last week's League of Women Voter's Debate between District 25 Legislature candidates William Coughlin and Michael Sullivan.
Michael Sullivan and William Coughlin
Both candidates were asked what their stance is on selling or privatizing the county home. The idea of privatizing the county home is nothing new, according to Sullivan, who noted that it came up in the 1980s.
"It certainly is a very emotional and charged issue," he said. "I happen to know that because when it came up the first time my family home was the recipient of a rock coming through the window warning us that it was not a good thing to consider or to do."
On the other hand, Sullivan said, taxpayers cannot be burdened for the 215-bed facility and that he would look at every proposal the county gets.
"There are hundreds of people in assisted living facilities and nursing homes in this county and they do not have the benefit that those 215 beds have. We need to find the right owner, or, find some alternative way of working with the employees we have there to make it cost effective and not be putting taxpayer dollars into the operation," he said. "In the old days it was the poor house where people went that had no other avenues for being cared for in their older years. It's not that way anymore. With Medicaid, facilities all get money paid to them, facilities aren't looking for the last resort, the free location."
Sullivan added that he felt there was some room for additional economic development, noting with the proper ownership of that facility could expand it to an assisted living facility adjacent to the home.
Coughlin was stern in his stance noting he is not in favor of privatizing or selling of the county home.
"The county home has been here for a long time. It has provided services to the area that have been incomparable," he said noting personal stories including a close friend and grandfather who stayed at the county home.
"I do understand that the county home costs us money. I'm not here to spend money willy-nilly but I am here to spend money on good causes. The quality of care gives the county home is second to none; the employees who work there are second to none. Government has a responsibility to take care of people who are less fortunate and those people in that home need that service, they need to be taken care of. We have to find a way to maintain it and continue it as a county operation."
PRIVATIZING THE AIRPORTS
The Chautauqua County Airports in Dunkirk and Jamestown have received several grants in years past for improvements but does it justify the expense to own and operate each? Candidates were asked if they would be willing to privatize the airport.
"I cannot understand how or why a county of 134,000 people or at the time we became the owner of two airports when we were at 145,000. What in the name of good heavens made us think we needed two airports?" Sullivan said. "It is an unnecessary expenditure. We find ourselves now boxed into spending money because we accepted grants in the past and we have to live up to the commitments that were made."
Coughlin agreed with Sullivan about the county airports, stating unlike the county home they do not provide an essential service.
"There does seem to be some opportunity with the Dunkirk airport with the increased traffic flow coming out of Buffalo that we could entice some service, jet service and other service to private industry and private individuals who utilize that type of service. But I believe without a doubt it should be left to private individuals and should not be a county function. It costs too much," he said. "Unlike the county nursing home which I believe has an essential service to the people in this county I don't believe the airport at this time does and I think we should get out of the business."
FULL COUNTY SOCIAL SERVICES IN DUNKIRK
For over a year a hole has resided in the city of Dunkirk following the Masonic Temple fire and since then the future of social services in the city have been a topic of discussion. Each candidate was asked what their stance was on returning full county social services to the city.
"My position is we should return full county social services to Dunkirk, just because that is one of the major areas where we have the biggest need. People don't realize unless you're involved in it," Coughlin said. "When you have the fire that we had in Dunkirk, the people that rely on the social service system do not have cars, they do not have that much transportation available that allows them to go and meet requirements to fulfill the social service application process or continuing process. By moving it outside the city of Dunkirk which is a large client area for the division of social services, it puts a tremendous burden on people that are receiving social services."
Coughlin stated that when then-assistant public defender Janice Slaton questioned the same issue to county executive Greg Edwards it may have led to her termination.
"When this question was asked by the current county executive by Janice Slaton there seemed to be very much a discouraging remark and we also we know that Miss Slaton is not working for the county. I myself think there was a direct linkage in that and I believe it may come out in the current process of which we're going through," he said. "It's vital the that the services are brought back to the city. I think we have to work with the city as a county unit to do something to reestablish that and to reestablish downtown Dunkirk. I don't believe having a hole in the city many people rely on is good for us and good for business for the county."
Sullivan said the approach he would take is to examine which services are needed the most both in Dunkirk and Jamestown and then go from there.
"I think we need to examine what services need to be there and find an appropriate way for providing those. It never made a lot of sense that the main population areas in our county are isolated on the north and south end and the county seat is sitting in Mayville," he said. "Maybe we need to look at finding a way to move some of those main operations out of the center of the county geographically but we also need to do it in away that is cost effective."
"We need to one, be sure of what services we actually need to have available in the city of Dunkirk or the city of Jamestown, and then find the most cost effective way of providing those and in safe manner. I'm not sure every service has to be there. We may be able to do it with sharing space with different municipal buildings."
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