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Chautauqua Legislature approves sale of County Home

MAYVILLE – The sale of the Chautauqua County Home to a downstate health care company for $16 million was approved Wednesday by a 13-5 vote in the County Legislature.

The issue was debated for about an hour prior to the vote. Legislators heard from employees of the home, residents of the home and several county residents.

Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, was absent from the meeting because of medical reasons. Majority Chairman Larry Himelien, R-Findley Lake, acted as chairman in his absence.

Among residents of the County Home who spoke was Joe Carrus, seated in a wheelchair. He opposed the sale and provided some history of the facility. He said it was founded in 1824 and was known as “the poor house.”

The issue has been debated for the past few years.

The offer of $16 million by VestraCare, a downstate health care company, was its second.

VestraCare offered $16.5 million last year. The vote to sell the home in October was defeated by a single vote. The Legislature in 2013 consisted of 25 members. This year’s Legislature has 19 members. A super majority of at least 13 votes was needed to approve the resolution to sell.

Legislator Fred Larson, D-Jamestown, said he thought that the voters of the county elected several of the members last November based on their position on the sale.

“The issue of selling the home became an election issue,” said Larson.

He said he voted in favor of the sale because it should allow the county to move forward in economic development projects. He said his vote in favor of the sale was because he thought a majority of the voters in the county wanted the sale.

County Legislator George Borrello, R-Hanover, said that VestraCare is a good company and he believes it will take care of the residents who live there. Borrello said he has family members who work there and family and friends who live in the County Home.

“It is the right thing to do to vote for the long-term survival of that home and for those residents,” Borrello said of his vote in favor of the sale.

Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the sale. He said that there has been a lot of research and debate on the issue. “I think you should feel good about the fact that VestraCare is still at the table, and you should feel good about their offer,” he said.

“We do not want a situation where we have to make a decision to close the County Home,” he said.

The home sits on about 30 acres of land. There are 216 beds for residents of the skilled-nursing facility. Most residents are long-term, but some shorter-term stays for physical therapy and rehabilitation are provided.

There were also speakers from the Civil Service Employees Association, who were opposed to the sale of the home. The CSEA represents the workers at the home.

The votes against the sale were from north county legislators including Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; Robert Scudder, R-Fredonia; Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia; and Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan.

The actual sale of the home cannot be completed until the transition process is approved by the state Department of Health. That process could take six months to two years.