Tonight will be a clear sign of whether we as a county are ready and willing to forsake the familiar and begin making tough decisions to make our county a better place.
Residents in Brocton and Westfield will vote to merge the Brocton and Westfield districts. The last school merger between Chautauqua and Mayville took place in 1994 and reduced the number of districts in the county from 19 to 18. Today's vote, from noon to 8 p.m. in the two communities, could further lower that number of districts to 17 if it is approved by both entities.
Sentiment for better educational opportunities already exists. Ripley schools, which currently house only the kindergarten to sixth-grade students, had voters approve a tuition plan to Chautauqua Lake for its secondary students in February. Despite some minor complaints about the busing, the rest of the reports on the Ripley-CLCS situation are filled with praise. Students are receiving an upgraded education, increased extracurricular activities and a full menu of sports.
Another major item today deals with the Chautauqua County Home. A special meeting tonight at 6:30 takes place in Mayville for legislators to question the potential purchasers of the Home, VestraCare.
The facility, which has been running a deficit in recent years, could be sold if the plan is approved by legislators. Some, as we know, are on the fence regarding the issue while others, despite constituent voices, continue to back keeping the home under county control. The tenor of legislators' questions tonight is the first chance to see if legislators who said they would sell to a good buyer are willing to do just that.
Tonight's meeting is an opportunity for legislators to get a better feel for the businesspeople who run VestraCare. One of the complaints with previous sale attempts was what critics deemed a poor buyer. Tonight is legislators' opportunity to size up VestraCare and see if the company can revitalize the home.
A recent report found the trend is to sell county-owned nursing homes due to the financial burden associated with running the facility, with the report stating the costs to operate a county-owned facility aren't likely to improve anytime soon.
In both cases, we will wake up Thursday morning with a more clear understanding of whether county residents are ready to make the tough decisions to make our county a better place to live.