ELLICOTT - At least one municipality is vocally supporting the sale of the Chautauqua County Home to a private buyer.
The Ellicott Town Board on Monday unanimously approved a resolution calling on county legislators to sell the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility. The announcement marks one of the first municipalities to become outspoken on the largely divided subject.
"Our job as representatives is to listen to our residents," said Cecil Miller, Ellicott town supervisor. "We think it's time the financial burden of the County Home was taken off the backs of taxpayers."
And Miller isn't the only Ellicott official to take a position.
"This is a real polarizing issue from this end of the county to the other," said legislator Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, of the County Home.
Tarbrake said he has been contacted by "well over" 100 constituents, all of whom have expressed desires to sell the 216-bed nursing facility. As a result, the Ellicott representative said he would vote to sell the home if a resolution were brought forward in the legislature.
"They feel this is a real burden to the taxpayers," Tarbrake said. "It's time we got out of the nursing home business."
He added: "I understand the concerns of the union and the employees and their jobs. It's been outlined in the study that these employees will have ample time to keep their jobs."
Legislature Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, who represents residents around Ellicott, said he, too, supports selling the County Home.
"It's what the people I represent want, and that's to sell the home," Barmore said.
In a recent straw poll by the OBSERVER, 12 legislators said they would sell or lease the home if a vote were held today. Ten lawmakers would not sell, while three were undecided. The legislature needs a 17-vote supermajority to sell the county-owned facility.
Legislators in July learned of two offers made on the County Home, one by Absolut Care Facilities Management, LLC and another by Altitude Health Services Inc.
Absolut Care, which operates two nursing facilities in Chautauqua County, submitted an offer of $1.6 million a year with a purchase option of $16 million. Altitude Health offered $16.5 million for the Dunkirk facility.
"Like the county we have a lot of difficult financial decisions in the future to make," Miller said. "The County Home is not a business I think the county should be in."
Tarbrake said he was glad to see the town board approve the resolution; he praised Miller for taking the lead in voicing support to close the home.
"I cannot think enough of Miller and the progress he has done," Tarbrake said. "This is another example of his leadership."
And as for constituents contacting their legislator, Tarbrake said, "I really appreciate it and I wish more people would contact me. I welcome it, and not only on this issue. With the budget process I would hope more people would contact me."