MAYVILLE – County legislators Wednesday had the chance to ask questions of two representatives from VestraCare, the parent company interested in purchasing the Chautauqua County Home.
Edward Farbenblum, executive vice president, and Shannon Cayea-Delker, administrator, responded to the questions about the proposed $16 million sale to Dunkirk Holdings Co., a firm formed by VestraCare for the acquisition.
Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia, asked if residents who did not currently have a way to pay would be moved out of the home. She was told those people would get financial assistance and would not be moved.
Fred Larson, D-Jamestown, asked how the prospective owners thought they would save money, pointing to the $1.4 million the county pays annually for retirement benefits for employees. Farbenblum said their group does not pay as much into retirement for employees.
Cayea-Delker said employees at VestraCare’s other businesses are offered other health care options. The county pays 90 percent of health insurance for employees. The amount is about 18 percent of the $8.5 million annual payroll, Larson said.
Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, questioned the valuation of the home, noting it was valued at more than $23 million several years ago.
Farbenblum said he believes the appraisal is “whatever the market will pay.”
He also said that state reimbursement for residents in a skilled nursing facility is not favorable and has recently been reduced, which is why the price was reduced from $16.5 million to $16 million currently.
“We live in a marketplace. What dictates price is what you can sell it for,” Farbenblum said.
He said that the county home was aggressively marketed and only two companies were interested. He also noted that the state dictates how many nursing home beds are allowed in an area.
Farbenblum said his company is also interested in the 30 acres of land that goes with the property because of the expansion possibilities. He said his company offers extra services at some of its other locations, including cardiac rehabilitation, adult day care and assisted living.
The county home currently has 216 beds that are classified as skilled nursing. It was established in the 1800s to take care of indigent residents as well as paying residents in the county. Currently about 78 percent of the residents are on the state Medicaid program for reimbursement.
Niebel also asked if the company knew about the potential in the gas well on the property. Farbenblum said that he is not ready to comment about the gas well and that his primary bank sees it as a liability.
“One of the things we were looking at is that the furniture and the IT equipment is seriously dated,” Farbenblum said. He said he anticipates that dressers and other furniture will have to be replaced.
County Attorney Steve Abdella said there will be a process at the sale to determine the valuation of the building and land as well as the personal property.
County Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, whose district includes the county home, said that the county could still support the home with funding.
County Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, asked if VestraCare would keep employees. Farbenblum said they would negotiate with the current union. He said they started negotiations at another facility in Ulster County one day after they bought a facility there.
“We will be bargaining with CSEA,” Farbenblum.
“We will hit the ground running with a transition plan,” Cayea-Delker said. She said a new medical records system would be required and a new pharmacy would be needed. “There will be a lot of front-end projects,” she said.
“Don’t get lost in your spreadsheets and your contracts, we take care of people,” Farbenblum said. He said his firm will be responsive to employees and residents.
“All indications are that this is going to happen,” said Shaun Heenan, D-Fredonia.