Once again, a purchase offer has been made for the Chautauqua County Home.
County Executive Vince Horrigan announced Wednesday he has signed an asset purchase agreement with VestraCare in order to begin the process of selling the nursing facility.
This isn't the first time the company has made an offer.
In October, VestraCare offered $16.5 million for the nursing home, but the sale fell one vote short of approval by the County Legislature.
Now, VestraCare, which would operate under the names Dunkirk Realty Holdings LLC and Dunkirk Operating LLC, has offered $16 million along with a potential $1 million investment in capital improvements to the County Home.
"VestraCare is not only committed to retaining the high-quality services currently offered at the County Home, but they also have expressed their interest in expanding on our facility's current services," Horrigan said. "They have committed to operate the facility for at least 10 years with preferred admissions for county residents, and current County Home residents will have the right to remain."
In 2012, two other offers were presented for the nursing facility.
Absolut Care, which operates homes in Salamanca and Eden, offered a $1.6 million-a-year lease with an option to buy for $16 million. Altitude Health of Chicago offered $16.5 million in cash. The County Legislature voted against selling the facility to any of the three companies.
Horrigan feels VestraCare was and is still the best option.
"This is the only firm offer that we have at this time and quite frankly it's the one I'm very comfortable with not only from the financial perspective, but also the quality of the operators and their track record here in New York state," Horrigan said, adding that VestraCare had wired $1.6 million in good faith on Wednesday.
Current County Home employees who apply with VestraCare and pass a background check will have the chance for employment.
"We expect the majority of employees to be offered employment," Horrigan said. "I'm confident. They (VestraCare) have a major facility to take over and they need top quality employees."
Current residents may be able to stay at the facility if it is sold as well. Horrigan said residents with a means of payment, from Medicare to Medicaid, will be taken care of.
"No one is going to be pushed out of the nursing home that's there," Horrigan said. "I want to make sure that whoever we transfer the home to has their best interests at heart."
Chairman of the legislature Jay Gould, R-Ashville, agreed with Horrigan about VestraCare and the present opportunity to sell the County Home.
"I think they're a really great organization," he said. "I think they would do fine up there (in Dunkirk)."
Of VestraCare's offer being $500,000 less, Gould said he was disappointed.
"But, if we go out to bid, it'll probably be another million less," he said. "It will continue to get less and less because it's a buyer's market at this present time. New York state does not want counties in the nursing home business."
Gould has voted to sell the County Home in the past and will continue to do so.
"Absolutely, that's what my constituents want," he said. "That was pretty clear after the last election."
The County Home is in the home district of Keith Ahlstrom, Democratic minority leader.
Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, said he will be voting against selling the home.
"I would be against the sale, regardless of what the offer was," he said, adding that VestraCare appears to be very conscientious about wanting to run an outstanding facility if they do purchase it.
The reason for such strong opposition to the sale is because of the community's attachment to the county-owned operation, Ahlstrom said.
"I would dare to say that a very high percentage of the people that live in Dunkirk would know somebody who has spent time at the County Home," he said. "People in Dunkirk are much more familiar with what the County Home has been through the years and the quality of service they've provided."
Ahlstrom said he wants to work as a county legislator to ensure the success of the skilled nursing facility.
"I think the important thing for the residents of Dunkirk and surrounding areas is that the facility does stay open, that those beds stay here," he said. "We need a north county presence in the nursing home industry, whether it's private or not."
The County Legislature will hold a special meeting on Feb. 5 for a presentation and question and answer session with representatives of VestraCare.
The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Legislative Chambers of the Gerace Office Building, 3 North Erie St. in Mayville.
VestraCare's current offer to purchase the County Home expires Feb. 27, and Horrigan will be submitting a resolution for approval of the sale for consideration by the County Legislature at the Feb. 26 legislature meeting.
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