MAYVILLE - The marketing firm chosen to advertise the County Home now has the official support of the County Legislature, or at least, it has the support of 13 of the legislature's members.
The resolution approving the choice of Marcus & Millichap squeaked through the legislature Wednesday in a 13 to 11 vote.
Several lawmakers expressed surprise that the idea was being discussed again, as it was tabled last month. Much of the discussion at last month's meeting centered around delaying the vote until January, when the winners of November's elections will take office.
Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, foreground, speaks during Wednesday’s meeting of the Chautauqua County Legislature.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
As a tabled resolution though, the proposal was able to be "taken off the table" and returned to the floor for discussion and vote Wednesday.
Legislators Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, and Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown, questioned the decision to return the issue to the floor - saying the intent of the vote last month was to wait until January.
Much of the subsequent discussion held Wednesday then centered around whether legislators were being dishonorable by revisiting the resolution or whether they would be shirking their duties if they didn't.
STATEMENT FROM LEGISLATOR KEITH AHLSTROM
The vote on the hiring of a marketing firm to solicit proposals for the sale of the County Home was disappointing at least. The legislature at its November meeting agreed by a majority vote to leave this important decisionto the incoming legislators.
Without any public notice, they changed direction and by a 13 to 11 vote have agreed to hire this firm. This decision is dishonorable to the legislature. Two members, legislators Jerry Park and Doug Richmond, changed their votes, without any public justification.
I believe this decision, on their part, was political in nature. Of the 13 votes in favor of this resolution, four of them, Tami Downey, Rudy Mueller, Park and Richmond, will not be in the legislature next year.
I call on County Executive Greg Edwards to veto this legislation. If he truly wants the backing of the legislature, if he truly wants an indication of the will of the legislature of the possible sale, he will veto this resolution. If he is concerned about an open and public debate on this issue, he will veto this resolution. He has an opportunity to right the wrong the legislature has done to its employees, the residents of the home and the taxpayers of the county.
Thirty days will make no difference in a timeline that all agree will take many months.
The proposal was ultimately approved in a 13 to 11 vote with legislator John Runkle, R-Stockton, absent. The vote did not break down strictly along party lines.
The resolution was supported by Dick Babbage, R-Bemus Point; Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; George Borrello, R-Irving; Tami Downey, R-Kiantone; Jay Gould, R-Ashville; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood; Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; Jerry Park, R-Forestville; Doug Richmond, R-Westfield; Bob Stewart, R-Ellington; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, and Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman.
The resolution was opposed by Ahlstrom, Kindberg, Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; John Gullo, D-Fredonia; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; Vickeye James, D-Jamestown; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, and Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown.
After the meeting, in a statement to the media, Ahlstrom said he is calling on County Executive Greg Edwards to veto the resolution.
"If he truly wants the backing of the legislature," Ahlstrom said, "if he truly wants an indication of the will of the legislature of the possible sale, he will veto this resolution. If he is concerned about an open and public debate on this issue, he will veto this resolution. He has an opportunity to right the wrong the legislature has done to its employees, the residents of the home and the taxpayers of the county."
Similarly after the meeting, Edwards thanked those legislators "who agreed to step up and make a decision" regarding the County Home.
"I just want to thank those leaders that agreed to do just that - lead," Edwards said. "Because you can't just turn a blind eye to a problem. You have to address it, as they did."
Rose Conti, CSEA Unit 6300 president, told lawmakers that she was very disappointed by their decision to return the issue to the floor and the subsequent vote to pass it.
She said the legislators had "a very quiet time doing it" because many believed that the issue would not be returning to the legislature until January.
"I clearly heard the message that you were going to wait," Conti said. "And I told my members we wouldn't come here tonight and we would honor you because of what you had done. We would make this a peaceful evening and I would come here and I would thank you for that. I'm sad to say that now I have to tell my members what happened here tonight and I do, I feel that was dishonorable. I have to say that."
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 only been able to build up its fund balance through contributions from the county - contributions which are matched by the federal government.
The county executive's budget initially included another such contribution to the County Home, but the half-million amount was removed by the legislature.
According to Edwards, the facility will begin losing between $10,000 and $11,000 per day starting Jan. 1.
Also during Wednesday's meeting, lawmakers approved the motion regarding Medicaid relief.
The body also approved the motion regarding gas well drilling, which called on the state to appropriately fund county health departments for the expected increase in workload.
The motion regarding rifle hunting, which was tabled last month, failed to return to the floor. The proposal to bring the motion back for discussion failed by two votes.
Additionally, the legislature approved the request of the Sheriff's Office to accept a $30,000 for a video-conferencing system. The resolution passed 23 to 1, with Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown, opposed and John Runkle, R-Stockton, absent.