MAYVILLE - A marketing firm has been selected for the potential lease, sale or other privatization of the County Home.
Legislators will consider a resolution Wednesday which, if passed, gives the body's support of the selection of the firm Marcus & Millichap.
The idea will likely see some discussion at the legislature's Nov. 16 meeting, as it failed to pass one committee last week and saw opposition in another.
Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, talks with Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman. The two legislators sparred recently over the possible privatization of the County Home.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
The proposal failed to pass the Human Services Committee on Wednesday, seeing defeat in a 3 to 2 vote. It did, however, pass the Audit and Control Committee in a 5 to 2 vote the next day.
According to legislature policy, even if resolutions see defeat in committee, those proposals can still be pushed through to the floor by their sponsors. So, even if the idea had similarly failed to pass Audit and Control, it would likely still be on the agenda for Wednesday's full meeting of the legislature.
In Human Services, the idea was opposed by Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Vickeye James, D-Jamestown; and Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown. It was supported by Committee Chairman Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, and Committee Vice Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville. In Audit and Control, it was opposed by Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, and John Runkle, R-Stockton. It was passed in Audit and Control by Committee Chairman Gould; Committee Vice Chairman Jerry Park, R-Forestville; Doug Richmond, R-Westfield; Committee Ranking Member Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; and John Gullo, D-Fredonia.
Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, addressed the Human Services Committee on Wednesday regarding the marketing firm proposal.
On Friday, Croscut told The Post-Journal that there were two firms considered, with Marcus & Millichap being the one selected. The legislature's support of the firm, Croscut said, does not hold the county to any sale or privatization changes. Those decisions will come down the line.
"It would still have to pass the legislature," Croscut said of potential changes. "The actual sale, if that ever does come - and I want to stress that we're just looking at all our options. No one is saying that we are going to sell the home, but we are saying that we're going to look into it.
See COUNTY HOME, Page A7
"I was happy to see it pass Audit and Control," Croscut continued. "And we do need 17 votes to sell any parcel of property ... I just think it needs to be looked into."
The county Home is a 216-bed skilled nursing facility located on a 30-acre site on Temple Road in Dunkirk. It is fully licensed by the State of New York Department of Health, and is certified by Medicare and Medicaid.
The County Home is a concern to some because it operates at a deficit each year. Money in the County Home's fund balance has covered those losses in recent years, and will for at least another year. However, the County Home has been able to build up its fund balance through contributions from the county which are matched by the federal government.
Croscut said Friday that "all the options are open" and supporting the selection of Marcus & Millichap as the county's marketing firm will only advance the process.
In specific, the resolution before the legislature supports the selection of Marcus & Millichap as the marketing firm for the County Home, with no commission being owed unless any such sale, lease or other disposition is approved by the County Legislature. Additionally, the proposal requests that the county executive, with the assistance of Marcus & Millichap, present to the legislature for its review a proposed request for proposals for the potential sale, lease or other disposition of the County Home.
In comments to The Post-Journal on Friday, Keith Ahlstrom called the resolution premature.
"I don't think that we've had any discussion on whether or not the legislature does support it," Ahlstrom said of both privatization of the facility and a potential sale.
"The employees have been telling us for the last year that there are things that could be done there to improve the financial aspect of the County Home," Ahlstrom said. "And even though we've been listening to them, nobody's really been hearing them. They made the point that we should have an independent group come in and tell us how to run the County Home better first. I think that that's true.
"I think that it's too early to be doing what we're doing," Ahlstrom said of seeking a marketing firm, repeating that the legislature hasn't even yet had a discussion or vote on what it would like to see done, as a body, with the County Home.
Ahlstrom also brought up the point that, as a result of Tuesday's elections, several new legislators will be arriving in Mayville shortly.
He then continued on to question why a resolution supporting the selection of Marcus & Millichap is being considered now when it could easily wait until the end of January, when those new legislators have had time to learn more about the County Home.
"This being such a big issue and there being such a big changeover, there should be no hurry on it," Ahlstrom said. "We're not going to do anything in the near future on this anyways. We should let the new people have a say in what's going on."
As explained by Croscut, any potential change to the County Home is far down the road - and will require a vote of at least 17 legislators, meaning a total of two-thirds of the body which will be seated in 2012.
While Ahlstrom was one of three who opposed the resolution in Human Services, legislator John Runkle, R-Stockton, was one of two who opposed it in Audit and Control.
"First of all, I am not opposed to selling the facility to private owners if it becomes absolutely necessary for our financial survival," Runkle told The Post-Journal. "However, I am concerned that we are 'putting the cart before the horse' here by making arrangements to sell the County Home without first doing an exhaustive investigation into how we might be able to make it more cost-efficient. To date, I don't believe that such a study has been accomplished.
Runkle concluded by pointing to the facility's reputation, which he said has been regarded as excellent for a long time.
"I just don't understand why we are not exploring measures that might allow us to keep it," he said. "At this juncture, I would much rather see an exhaustive investigation into the possibility of keeping the institution rather than a report on how much we could make by selling the facility. ... It would be a shame to compromise that reputation without first studying all of the alternatives."