MAYVILLE - Cost-saving recommendations by an ad-hoc committee to keep the Chautauqua County Home open and in the public sector should be ready for the legislature this month.
Whether a vote to sell or lease the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility takes place during the legislature's Sept. 26 meeting, however, remains unknown.
Legislator John Runkle, R-Stockton, said the ad-hoc committee will be meeting Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Mayville to formally discuss cost-saving suggestions made in a viability report by the Center for Governmental Research. Recommendations for the full legislature to keep the home solvent are expected to come out of the meeting.
Supporters for the County Home picket outside the Gerace Building prior to an August legislature meeting. Cost-saving recommendations by an ad-hoc committee are expected to be delivered to the County Legislature later this month.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
"We're going to sit down and I'm hoping the director of the County Home (Tim Hellwig) or any representative from there will come by," Runkle said Monday. "I'm hoping we can come up with some recommendations for the legislature."
Runkle, who chairs the ad-hoc committee, had expressed doubts that a vote on the home would take place in September. However, after two weeks of reviewing the report and "recent media attention," Runkle said he expects several cost-saving recommendations to be forwarded this month.
"Everyone should have read the report by now," he said. "And everyone should be informed."
County Executive Greg Edwards, who has been the point-of-contact for the County Home, said he looks forward to receiving the recommendations. Those cost-cutting measures, he noted, are similar to a report commission by the legislature three years ago.
"I'd be thrilled if all the legislators would read the entire report and all the facts that have been out there," Edwards said.
For a potential sale to be brought forward this month, legislation would need to be drafted and sponsored, either by a legislator or the county executive.
According to Steve Abdella, county attorney, the legislature needs at least 17 votes - a two-thirds supermajority - to approve the sale of a county property.
In a recent anonymous straw poll conducted by The Post-Journal, 12 lawmakers said they would sell the County Home if a vote were to take place today. Ten legislators would not sell, and three said they were undecided at this time.
Runkle remains confident there is not enough support in the legislature to sell or lease the facility. Therefore savings must be recognized.
"I don't think the support is there," he said. "And I've said it before, we cannot simply say sell it or keep it. We need to explore the options."
The CGR report, given by Don Pryor, noted at least $2.3 million in potential annual savings for the County Home. Those savings include implementing an electronic medical record keeping system and limiting salaries and benefits for the home's union workforce.
In addition to enhanced revenues and cutback, the county would be required to front a local share to match a federal intergovernmental transfer grant. The county has contributed $6.6 million in IGT funding in the last five years - netting the County Home a $14.9 revenue boost.
Pryor said like most publicly owned nursing homes, IGT funding is necessary on an annual basis to remain solvent. Without local and federal assistance the County Home would have run a deficit of $1.6 million a year; with the funding source, the home has seen a modest annual surplus of $656,000.
The legislature in July learned of two offers made on the County Home, one by Absolut Care Facilities Management, LLC and Altitude Health Services Inc.
Absolut Care, which operates two nursing facilities in Chautauqua County, submitted an offer of $1.6 million a year with a purchase option of $16 million. Altitude Health, located near Chicago, offered $16.5 million in cash for the Dunkirk facility.