CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY - A private investor placed a down payment on Tuesday for the $16.5 million purchase of the Chautauqua County Home, according to County Executive Greg Edwards.
Edwards said VestraCare, which finalized a contract with the county on Monday to buy the senior living home, deposited the $1.65 million down payment on Tuesday morning. The legislature has called a special session for Oct. 9th to discuss the matter, which has been the source of controversy in Dunkirk and Chautauqua County for some time now.
"There really is no downside to this," Edwards said. "There have been some concerns expressed, and that's appropriate in a big decision like this. But if people want to spend the time, to invest the time, to find the true answers, the factual answers, I think everyone in Chautauqua County can be confident that this is the right decision."
Those concerns have come in a variety of forms- even from an online campaign to stop the sale of the home. Opponents have used Facebook, a thirty-minute YouTube video, rallies and other public displays of outcry to voice their displeasure with the possible privatization, claiming it will affect patient care and the employees who work at the home.
Edwards said on Tuesday that he believes the sale will increase the quality and quantity of care, and he also said the private investment will help spur the economy through property taxes.
As a part of the larger discussion about the possible sale of the Chautauqua County Home, questions have been raised about a specific part of the property: a gas well. The well, which cost more than $400,000 to build in 2011, currently sits in the grass behind the building. However, despite that original purchase after a recommendation from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the well has never been hooked up to the home. According to Edwards, it would cost $120,000 to attach the well, but the county believes that would be too costly and would not save money on gas anyway.
In 2012, Democratic legislators Lori Connell and Robert Whitney wrote a letter questioning the $426,493 contract for the gas well. Last month, Whitney brought up the issue in a meeting, and he told 2 On Your Side on Tuesday that he believes the well should have never been built- since it's not hooked up.
But Edwards stands by his purchase. He said the well is still worth more than $400,000 and added value to potential buyers, crediting it for helping net $16.5 million from VestraCare. He called criticism of the gas well a "red herring" and a distraction from the larger issue.
"It's really a non-issue," Edwards said. "It was a good use of dollars."