It was noted in the Oct. 9, 1959, edition of the Dunkirk OBSERVER that a bipartisan committee consisting of four Dunkirk city supervisors had agreed to purchase the 30-acre Henry Lesch farm for $1,500. The Chamber of Commerce would provide one-third of this amount.
Soon, construction began for what would become "the Beautiful New Chautauqua County Home and Infirmary," as the Chamber of Commerce called it. The $2 million project would receive $300,000 in federal assistance.
The construction was completed two years later with a final tag of $2.3 million. At the dedication in October 1961, witnessed by hundreds of persons and dignitaries, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller said in his letter, that the Home "would stand as a testimony to the amenity of Chautauqua County."
Fred A. Waterman, the former commissioner of welfare for 18 years, expressed pride in being a citizen of the county and was proud of the progress that had been made.
In March 2000 a project to remodel the Chautauqua County Home at a cost of $16.3 million was approved by lawmakers. The completion of this project was expected in June 2003.
By factoring in the inflation in these expenditures, the renovation would be valued today at $22 million while the original construction cost at nearly $18 million. Not considering other improvements made since then, the total construction cost would be $40 million. The current proposed sale price of $16 million pales greatly in comparison.
Our county legislators are on the verge of offering the County Home to an out-of-state, for-profit operator of nursing homes for this price of $16 million. This is a price that would undoubtedly call into question whether the guardianship of our county assets are safely bestowed on our representatives.
An OBSERVER article of June 27, 2012, referred to a scathing report by the state comptroller's office that indicated that "risky investments and questionable management decisions" resulted in the loss of millions of dollars by Chautauqua County.
We have repeatedly heard from some of our legislators and supporters that the County Home is losing close to $9,000 daily, and that the Home is no longer sustainable. We have also heard a message contrary to this based on a comprehensive report by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) contracted by our legislators at a cost of $80,000. In the conclusion of this report, based on extensive research and analysis of financial data on the Home, it is stated that not only was the Home well run but that it is not a major drain on taxpayers, and that "it can be fiscally viable for the County to continue to own and operate CCH." This report is posted on the County site and is available for the public to see.
The real test now is whether we will have the courage to look beyond the limited view of current financial interests which disregard the vision of those community leaders who in 1960 foresaw the need to provide for our aging population by combining resources from all levels of government to create a County Home that would serve us and unite us as a community.
Will the action currently being contemplated by some of the County legislators earn us the right to stand along side those leaders in this brief passage of time?
Giulio and Silvia Mannino are Fredonia residents.