MAYVILLE - Nearly 11 months after a request for what the CSEA was willing to do regarding the sale of the County Home, the union has responded.
Last week, County Executive Greg Edwards received a letter from the CSEA. In the letter, the union requested "that negotiations for terms and conditions of employment for employees at the Chau-tauqua County Nursing Home be separated from negotiations for the remainder of the Chautauqua County Employee Unit 6300."
However, the letter may be too little, too late.
"My thoughts are pretty clear. I asked the president of the local CSEA in January by letter to advise me what the CSEA was willing to do," Edwards said. "They did not acknowledge receipt of the letter, nor did they ever respond to that letter until I received this letter in my office on Nov. 21. So, from January until November, this is the first thing I have received."
Edwards said he had formally communicated with the CSEA in January of this year. At the time, he said he told them he was working with Marcus and Millichap to begin marketing analysis of the County Home.
He requested that the CSEA provide anything it was going to propose on the County Home by April, to be presented along with the findings of Marcus and Millichap.
According to a release by the CSEA on Tuesday, the union is taking the first step toward controlling costs and increasing revenue as suggested in a recent report and study of operations at the Chautauqua County Home.
"We are committed to nursing home residents and taxpayers who demand quality long-term care and access to the care that only the Chautauqua County Home provides," said David Fagerstrom, Chautauqua County unit president. "This offer demonstrates that commitment. We are hopeful these negotiations can begin immediately and that measures recommended by the Legislature's Ad Hoc Committee on the County Home and the Center for Govern-mental Research can be implemented."
The letter, which is dated Nov. 20, states that the request is predicated upon full funding of the County Home, including IGT match, and implementation of other cost saving and revenue enhancing recommendations made in the Center for Governmental Research report.
Under the union proposal, nursing home workers would remain members of the CSEA Chautauqua County Unit 6300, but a separate section of the contract would include articles specific only to county home employees.
In his budget proposal, Edwards called for $1.3 million in IGT funding which would have been matched by another $1.3 million of state and federal taxes. The legislature, however, reduced that amount by $250,000.
"It is important for the home to be fully funded as negotiations take place, and for other recommendations in the study to be considered for implementation as well," Fagerstrom said. "The Chautauqua County Home is an asset owned by county residents, and an important safety net that provides care for all regardless of ability to pay. We believe it can remain taxpayer-owned and thrive if the CGR report is fully and seriously considered."
According to Edwards, the County Home is projected to lose more than $700,000, or approximately $9,000 per day. This information is why the county engaged Marcus and Millichap, and why it acknowledged an offer by Altitude Health Services Inc. for $16.5 million to purchase the County Home, Edwards said.
"That's why we are finalizing the contract as we speak between Altitude and the county of Chautauqua to be presented to the Chautauqua County Legislature for their review for their December session," Edwards said. "So, obviously it is difficult on the eve of reviewing the contract of the sale, to receive this letter as the first letter in response to my January letter, when we're negotiating the contract for the sale of the property. So, it's very unfortunate timing that the CSEA chose here."
Stephen Abdella, county attorney, said since the budget is fully adopted, Legislators would not be able to change the tax levy at this point.
"If they decided to increase it back to where it was in the tentative budget or higher, I think they could do that by going to the fund balance," he said. "They could do that at any time. That would be outside the budget process at this point."
Edwards said he does not expect the letter from CSEA to be discussed during tonight's legislature meeting. However, he will be discussing the letter further with CSEA representatives.
"Since it's unclear what is actually being proposed in this letter, I'll work between now and the December meeting to try and figure out what that is," Edwards said.
Attempts to reach union officials for further comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.