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CSEA Workers Join With Seniors In Asking Republican Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards: What’s The Rush? Union & Community Activists Join Together To Stop Privatization Of County Home In Dunkirk As Edwards Looks To Fast-Track The Process

Chautauqua County Legislator Fred Croscut Reportedly Answers, “No,” When Asked If He Cares About County Employees During Heated County Home Session/Legislator Keith Ahlstrom Subsequently Apologizes To County Workers For Crosscut’s Comments

Published Wednesday, November 16, 2011 3:00 pm
by Tom Campbell/Editor-Publisher
CSEA Workers Join With Seniors In Asking Republican Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards: What’s The Rush?  Union & Community Activists Join Together To Stop Privatization Of County Home In Dunkirk As Edwards Looks To Fast-Track The Process

WNYLaborToday.com Editor's Note/Update: By a vote of 13-to-11, the Chautauqua County Legislature Wednesday evening (November 16th) tabled a vote on the Chautauqua County Home until January.  CSEA Local 6300 President Rose Conti told WNYLaborToday.com the delay was yet "another victory" in stopping the County from its plans to private the Dunkirk Facility.  Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper will keep our Viewers/Readers updated on this developing Labor News Story in the weeks to come.

 

(MAYVILLE) – On Monday, November 2nd, 2009, then-Republican Chautauqua County Executive Candidate Gregory Edwards took out a newspaper ad (pictured above/Courtesy of CSEA Local 6300) in The Dunkirk Observer to publicly commit to keeping the Chautauqua County Home open. 

Now - just a little more than two years later - Members of CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) Local 6300 will be joined by a host of community activists tonight (Wednesday, November 16th) to publicly protest Edwards and the Republican-led County Legislature’s move to privatize the 216-bed, skilled-nursing facility that is located on Temple Road in Dunkirk.

Despite the fact Edwards criticized his Democratic opponent in the 2009 November Election for attacking him with “half-truths and misrepresentations,” the County Legislature’s Human Services Committee supports the selection of a company called Marcus & Millichap for the "marketing of the potential sale, lease or other disposition of the Chautauqua County Home” and is looking to move forward on a proposal that it has received from the firm.

“Despite his public statement that ‘only a desperate politician would try to scare Seniors, their families and Workers just to try to get a vote!,’ it appears the County Executive now has had a change of mind and wants to run (the County Home) ‘like a business,’” CSEA Local 6300 President Rose Conti tells WNYLaborToday.com.  “He’s not only looking to replace good-paying jobs with low-paying jobs, cut the cost of staffing and get rid of the Union, but taking away an option for our Seniors, who are very upset by what’s going on.  Do you know what will happen if you employ a staff without benefits?  It’s all about the quality of care.”

So upset, Conti says, that more than 1,100 County Residents have already signed a petition not to have the County Home privatized.  “That says a lot for our county,” Conti added.  Those supporting the non-privatization of the County Home have also asked County Residents/Taxpayers to call their individual Legislators directly, as well as send them e-mails and written letters - and it appears that is happening. 

According to information posted on its website, fully-licensed by the State of New York Department of Health and certified by Medicare and Medicaid, the Chautauqua County Home is “Western New York's premier long-term health care facility,” with a 216 bed facility in Dunkirk: “Our rural setting and our staff provides a home-like atmosphere for our residents.  The 280-member staff provides around-the-clock medical care as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy.  CSEA Local 6300 represents 180 full-time Workers with benefits at the Home, along with as many as 80 part-timers and substitute Workers, said Conti, telling WNYLaborToday.com the County Home is presently operating at around 97% capacity.

With talk of the Dunkirk Home being privatized sometime during the first part of 2013, CSEA and Union Members were to be joined in their public protest Wednesday by Seniors and a host of Community Activists who are also upset over the charge by Edwards to privatize the County Home.  The process has been so fast-tracked, with little time for public in-put, that Conti tells Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper that the marketing firm the County has lined up “already has a full-color brochure printed up” in preparation to hitting the ground running.

As they were slated to do again late Wednesday, back in early October, CSEA-Represented County Home Workers (pictured below/Photo Provided To WNYLaborToday.com by CSEA Local 6300) gathered in support of the County Home, carrying signs that read: Save Our County Home and Respect Your Elders, and wore t-shirts that carried a similar message.

According to a recent report published in The Jamestown Post Journal, County Legislators contend the County is losing $100,000 each month on the County Home, which has forced them to look into selling the Dunkirk Facility. 

However, CSEA Representatives argue it can be self-sustaining if managed properly. 

Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut reportedly said at the end of 2010 the County Home had a fund balance of approximately $5.2 million and that it’s lost over $1.4 million so far this year.  In addition to selling the home to a private owner, Croscut has said the County could also consider hiring a third-party management team, setting up a public benefit corporation or simply continuing operations as they currently are.

However, CSEA Local 6300 President Conti disagrees with Croscut’s statement, saying there’s Federal Matching Funds that Chautauqua County has missed out on for such help, and that a capital improvement project which took place on the County Home’s Dunkirk property that involved drilling for a gas well on site - that would have saved the Home $350,000 a year - has been capped.  “When I told the Legislators that, they said they didn’t know that fact until I told them,” Conti told WNYLaborToday.com.

The early October session involving the Legislature’s Human Services Committee became heated, according to Conti, and when Legislature Chairman Croscut addressed the Committee, he said – according to Conti – “Do I care about the County Employees?  No!”  

Fellow Republican Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, who is a member of the Human Services Committee, according to Conti, addressed the committee and said he “could not believe” what Croscut had said about the employees and that “they should all care.”

“(Ahlstrom) went onto apologize to me and to all the County Employees who’ve been talking to them.  (Ahlstrom) said that when we were talking, they were listening, but they were not ‘hearing’ what we were telling them.  He feels this is too fast, that there’s no hurry and they should start listening to us.  He believes they should not vote on this at this time and should wait for the new Legislators (who won election on November 8th) to make these decisions.  He also went on to give a math explanation of why the County Home is the best deal for the money and if they use the same process in handling the rest of the county the way they did the IGT they should shut government down completely.  He called them ‘foolish’ for not taking the deal.  He said that he should have done this two months ago and is sorry that he waited,” Conti said. 

Also according to published reports, a local business-owner addressed Legislators that evening, telling them about his grand-mother - a resident of the Chautauqua County Home in Dunkirk: "She's at the County Home because we chose to put her there.  We searched high and low.  We looked at privately-owned nursing homes and we chose the County Home because of the quality of care there.  And I'm a little upset that we, the taxpayers, are hearing through the newspapers that the County Home is going to be privatized.  We're hearing through the newspapers and we don't have a say in it.  We don't know when the vote is.  We don't know any of it.  Nothing is brought public for us, the taxpayers - for me, a grand-daughter who is trying to care for her grand-mother the best that we know how.  And I just don't think its right.  I think it's up to this County to allow us, the taxpayers, to have a better say and to be able to see and know exactly what is going on when it comes to our loved ones."

“What we’re doing is working and we must keep the pressure on,” Conti said in an e-mail message to Labor Unions and Community Activists before Wednesday’s rally outside the Gerace County Office Building in Mayville.  “The one message I hear - loud and clear - is that Legislators are getting phone calls, letters and e-mails.  Some even admit to learning things they didn’t know from talking to (County Home) employees.  They now realize we’re not going to go quietly, that we are strong and that we are united.  We’re changing opinions and making them take notice.” 

The battle over whether or not to privatize the Chautauqua County Home in Dunkirk might be one of several battles to come across the County.  Conti tells Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper that Republican County Executive Edwards is also either looking at or moving forward on plans to privatize the County’s two airports and the County’s landfill.

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