EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 18th in a series of articles highlighting major issues facing each of the 19 Chautauqua County districts and the legislators presiding over them.
The Chautauqua County Home, one of the most controversial topics discussed in county legislature, is in Keith Ahlstrom's district.
The topic of privatizing the nursing facility has been voted on three times, and each time it has remained under county ownership.
"I will continue to support the County Home," Ahlstrom said. "I believe a majority of the residents in my district are in support of the home, and I was elected to represent their views."
Ahlstrom said if the County Home is sold, he will work with the new owners to ensure it remains viable for many years to come.
Also, he said the County Home is not the biggest issue in Chautauqua County.
Employment: Dunkirk Fire Department, chief
Elected Offices Held: Chautauqua County Legislature, 1997-present; chairman of legislature, 2002-10
Education: SUNY Empire, associate degree; Dunkirk Central School
Civic Involvement: Dunkirk Little League, treasurer, 20 years; Dunkirk Babe Ruth League board of directors; American Red Cross, former volunteer and CPR instructor; Dunkirk Central School Board of Education
Fun Fact: New York state certified high school baseball umpire
"Hopefully, the biggest economic issue has been solved for the foreseeable future with Gov. Cuomo's decision to support the repowering of the NRG plant," said the District 1 representative. "This decision brings a degree of notability to the tax base of the city, school district and county."
In the coming year, Ahlstrom said the creation of a regional water district in the northern part of the county could possibly be the most significant issue.
"The establishment of the water district would bring our most valuable commodity to many people, and hopefully the process will carry over to other areas," he said. "Politicians talk about regionalism and cooperative efforts, but very few significant projects are actually accomplished."
Ahlstrom said he believes that instead of all of the present levels of government in the county, taxpayers would be better served with one county government and a countywide school district with one superintendent and one central office for administrative services.
"While this may be extreme, the proof that the existing structure does not work is reflected in the multiple and high property tax bills that we all receive," he said.
Lastly, Ahlstrom said he believes in all members of the legislature working together.
"Contrary to public opinion, and the portrayal of the legislature in the press, the vast majority of issues are agreed to in a bipartisan fashion," he said. "The County Home is not a political issue, it is a regional one. There are very few votes taken that fall on party lines."
Of the new legislature, which downsized from 25 members to 19 on Jan. 1, Ahlstrom said he looks forward to working with the newly elected in 2014.
"I have enjoyed working with most legislators in the past, and will miss Bob Duff (former District 3 legislator, R-Sheridan) and Fred Croscut (former District 20 legislator, R-Sherman)," Ahlstrom said.