MAYVILLE - County legislators aren't sold on privatizing the Chautauqua County Home. At least not enough of them at this point for a sale to go through.
An anonymous straw poll conducted by the OBSERVER shows if a vote were held today, the Dunkirk skilled nursing facility would remain in the public sphere.
When asked, 12 legislators said they would sell or lease the County Home to a qualified bidder. Ten lawmakers would not sell, while three said they were undecided at this point. Of those three unsure, one said they would vote to sell if put on the spot.
"That's just about what I figured," said John Runkle, R-Stockton when told of the results. "I'm not surprised by the numbers. It shows that we should be looking at ways to cut costs."
Runkle has expressed doubts that not enough votes are in the legislature to sell or lease the home. Therefore, he said, alternatives - such as implementing streamlined technology and receiving concessions from the union - need to be explored.
"I think we do need to do something real quick," he said. "Especially if there are cost-cutting savings out there. We would want to look into those savings as quickly as possible."
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. As it stands, a simple majority would not be enough to sell the County Home.
"It's irresponsible to simply say sell or or don't sell," Runkle said. "There's a lot more to it, and it appears by these numbers we will have to look at the savings."
The legislature met in August for special meeting where Don Pryor of the Center for Governmental Research gave a financial viability report on the County Home. The meeting came a month after lawmakers learned of two qualified bids that have been received for the nursing facility.
Those offers are from Absolut Care Facilities Management, LLC and by 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 County Home.
In the meantime, County Executive Greg Edwards has not wavered on selling the cash-strapped facility.
"The only way for us to save the home for residents and the jobs offered by this 200-plus-bed long-term care facility is to sell it," Edwards said in his Monday Morning Memo. The county executive, who has been in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, could not be reached for comment on the straw poll.
Runkle, meanwhile, said the future of the home will come down to lawmakers.
"To be blunt, the decision to sell the home is not up to the county executive but up to the legislature," he said recently.