By ERIC TICHY
OBSERVER Mayville Bureau
MAYVILLE - The County Legislature appears three votes shy from selling the Chautauqua County Home, a new strawpoll conducted by the OBSERVER indicates.
With several lawmakers "undecided" at the moment, it remains unclear whether the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility will be sold or kept in the public sector. For a county property to be sold the legislature needs 17 votes, a supermajority.
The new poll indicates more lawmakers are willing or leaning toward selling.
Those who said they would vote to sell the County Home include: Legislature Chairman Frank "Jay" Gould, R-Ashville; Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; George Borrello, R-Irving; Fred Croscut, R-Sherman; John Hemmer, R-Westfield; Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood; Vickye James, D-Jamestown; Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; and Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown.
Those who said they would not vote to sell include: Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton; Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown; Tim Hoyer, D-Jamestown; and Bob Duff, R-Sheridan.
Lawmakers on both sides explained their reasoning.
"I shall certainly vote to sell the County Home," Erlandson said. "It is the overwhelming position of the people I represent who have spoken with me about that issue. And I am personally convinced that it is the only logical and rational decision to make."
Said James, "I am leaning toward selling. That's what my constituents want me to do so I am leaning toward selling."
"I will vote to sell the County Home and commend the county executive for putting it in the budget," said Croscut, noting County Executive Greg Edwards - who included the sale of the 216-bed facility in his tentative budget.
"At this point my constituents have overwhelmingly told me that the county should sell the home," DeJoy said. "I'm not going to take a personal stance on this, and I will follow what they tell me."
Those wishing to keep the home, however, note its roll within the county.
"I do think the marketing process was poor," Cornell said. "The bidders we have to choose from are not strong choices out there.
"But what it comes down to is are we the type of community that values a public option for end-of-life care? I would, however, not support continuing the home under its current fiscal situation. I think this administration has failed miserably."
Added Hoyer: "No one should make a profit in health care, but use the money to better the care."
Hoyer said using profits from selling the home would leave a budget gap next year, and noted that money in the county's fund balance could be use to balance the budget.
"So it is not wise or responsible to the taxpayer to sell the County Home to balance the budget," he said. "I would vote no on the sale of the County Home."
Other legislators, meanwhile, were more blunt in their explanation.
"ABSOLUTELY NO!!!!" DeJoe responded in an email statement.
Several lawmakers said they would wait until after next week's budget sessions before making a decision. Those currently undecided include: John Runkle, R-Stockton; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia; Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; and Rod Rogers, GP-Forestville.
"Since there is not a vote today, and since the vote will come as a part of the budget discussions, I will wait to listen to the discussion before I make up my mind," Ahlstrom said.
"I'm undecided, but leaning toward selling," added Rogers. "I think there is still work to be done and I want to wait until the budget to make a decision. But I am leaning toward selling."
Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia, and Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, could not be reached.