MAYVILLE - A total of four presentations and an emergency resolution took up much of the time during Wednesday's legislature meeting.
In addition to hearing from potential purchasers of the Chautauqua County Home, legislators also heard presentations about funeral directors, a north county regional water system and the STAR program.
James Subjack, attorney, presented on behalf of the Chautauqua County Funeral Directors Association and its membership, requesting the legislature authorize an increase to the rate of reimbursement to the funeral directors in the county who perform services for indigent individuals.
Kurt Gustafson, county attorney, is pictured with Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, at Wednesday’s legislature meeting.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
According to Subjack, currently, the contract under which the funeral directors and the Chautauqua County Department of Social Services operate reimburses the funeral directors the sum of $984 for each funeral performed. Additionally, funeral homes are expected to donate a casket. Subjack said by the time the funeral is over, the funeral home suffers a loss of $1,300.
In a letter obtained from a legislator, Subjack listed a seven-part proposal on behalf of the funeral directors association, leading to the conclusion the additional financial burden to the county will be $50,000. Subjack also told legislators that as of Jan. 1, 2014, bids may need to be obtained from outside the county, because funeral directors have expressed to him they will not continue taking on the funeral services.
Following his presentation, questions were allowed by Legislative Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, at which point several legislators requested clarification. Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, suggested following the new budget process and speaking with the appropriate committees.
"I was extremely uncomfortable with Mr. Subjack's presentation," George Borrello, R-Irving, said following the meeting. "The fact that as of Jan. 1, all of the funeral directors in Chautauqua County have agreed that they are no longer going to provide the services of indigent funerals. I think this needs to be closely examined. I think in the end, the free market can determine who will do these. Even if we have to go outside the county, I don't like the idea of this being basically a veiled threat."
Rick Henry and Patrick Brennan presented to the legislature on behalf of a North County Regional Water System. The men said the system would operate much like the South and Center Sewer District, only as a water system. According to the presentation, each municipality will be able to set their own water rates based on their actual expenses, keeping in mind that the rate will need to include the cost of the district to operate and maintain the treatment an transmission systems.
The region would share the costs equally for the current $30.4 million investment and for future investments in the water treatment and transmission systems. The current map includes Brocton, Portland, Pomfret, the town and city of Dunkirk, Sheridan, Silver Creek and Hanover.
Robert Wright, Office of Real Property Services representative, also briefly spoke to the legislature about changes to the STAR Program. Additional information about the STAR Program can be found at www.tax.ny.gov.
Finally, the legislature voted on an emergency resolution, brought to the legislature at the request of Robert Whitney, D-Jamestown. Because it was an emergency resolution, it required a supermajority of 17 votes to be brought before the floor.
The resolution was rejecting an amendment to the Chautauqua County Administrative Code, an amendment made by County Executive Greg Edwards. The amendment was regarding the Chautauqua County Home.
The amendment reads, "Unless leased, sold, transferred, or no longer authorized in the county budget pursuant to a resolution of the Chautauqua County Legislature, the Chautauqua County Home shall be operated under the supervision of a nursing home administrator, licensed and registered as required by New York state law..."
Whitney expressed his main concern was the section reading "or no longer authorized in the county budget," which several legislators agreed with. Nazzaro said if the funding was cut from the budget, due to the wording, the home would no longer be operated under the supervision of an administrator.
"I think it's pretty clear why we have to change this," Borrello said. "There has been a history of the CSEA bringing frivolous lawsuits against counties when they're looking to execute a sale. In every single case, the CSEA lost, yet it has cost taxpayers a lot of money to defend these lawsuits. So, this simple change in language eliminates that."
By voting in favor of the resolution, legislators were objecting to the change in language to the administrative code. By opposing the emergency resolution, legislators were voting in favor of the new wording.
Voting in favor of the resolution were Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; Robert Duff, R-Sheridan; Rod Rogers, G-Forestville; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; Victoria James, D-Jamestown, Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; Timothy Hoyer, D-Jamestown; Robert Whitney, D-Jamestown; Nazzaro; Thomas DeJoe, D-Brocton; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia; and Coughlin.
Opposing the resolution were Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Borrello; Fred Croscut, R-Sherman; John Hemmer, R-Westfield; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Robert Steward, R-Ellington; Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood; and Gould.
Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, was absent from the meeting.
Although there were 14 legislators in favor of rejecting the amendment to the code, 17 are required to pass an emergency resolution, so the change in wording was made.