Sale of the County Home is the right move
By Todd J. Tranum
President & CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier
Chautauqua County is on the right track in moving toward the eventual sale of the County Home in Dunkirk. The facility has come a long way since its establishment as a "Poor House" in the 1830s. For many decades it has been a nursing home, and for over 25 years it has been accepting private pay patients essentially competing with private nursing homes in Chautauqua County.
Among the many issues at stake in the future of the facility include any impact on the county tax base, the level of care available to patients, and the impact on employees. Each of these items is being addressed under a Request for Proposals issued by a firm which was authorized by the County Legislature to market the County Home for sale or lease.
As a fundamental principle, the Chamber of Commerce/Manufacturers Association is not in favor of establishing unfair competition that pits governmental entities against private sector business. Such is the case with the County Home. Because the entity has been essentially subsidized by the county, business and residential taxpayers have helped to provide a service that directly competes with local businesses. The RFP requires that proposers continue to operate the County Home as a skilled nursing facility for at least ten years, give the County a say in how the facility can be run in the future, and also allows the county to reserve the right to reject all proposals if they are not in the best interest of the county.
As for patient care, the County Home has demonstrated consistently good outcomes in standardized ratings through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Again, the RFP terms are clear: any entity offering a proposal must include their experience including staff training, relationships with patients' family members, resident activities, and quality of life issues. In addition, preference to admission must be given to Chautauqua County residents.
Regarding the current employees at the County Home, any offers would require an accounting of what protections would be provided for jobs, salaries, and benefits for current employees. Current union employees would be guaranteed offers of employment if they apply and pass a background check.
These requirements are more then generous in any potential transaction. In addition to the RFP, the County also has a task force reviewing all issues related to the sale.
The reality is that there is no good reason for Chautauqua County to remain in the nursing home business at this time. A proposal to sell the County Home more than two decades ago was defeated. Should the County receive offers under the Request for Proposals by April 16, we hope they will be seriously considered by the Legislature as a move toward improving the fiscal strength of our county government.
Still time to save NRG
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier continue to urge all local businesses and residents to make their voice heard to save NRG Energy's Dunkirk plant. Plans to "mothball" the facility could result in a loss to our region of up to $40 million in tax revenue, high-paying jobs, and locally purchased goods and services.
The New York State Senate has approved legislation which would require the New York Power Authority to conduct an analysis of electric generating facilities in Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara Counties and to enter into power purchase agreements to keep them operating. That bill still needs approval in the State Assembly and must be signed by Governor Cuomo. There is still an opportunity to complete this legislation before lawmakers take a post-budget break.
To lend your voice to this effort, call or email Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at 518-455-3791, firstname.lastname@example.org and Governor Cuomo at www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContact-Form.php.
Chamber membership drive underway
Volunteers from all over Chautauqua County are reaching out to local businesses, encouraging them to join the Chamber of Commerce as part of the 2012 Membership Drive.
There are many benefits of Chamber membership including: tools to increase profits such as Shop Chautauqua County Gift Checks and discounts on services; connections to new customers through networking events, sponsorships, and business promotion opportunities; representation where it matters through legislative events and advocacy; and information and new ideas including weekly updates, monthly e-newsletters, training and development, and guest speakers.
For information, please visit our website at www.chautauquachamber.org or call one of our offices at 366-6200 or 484-1101.