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News Headlines for Feb. 6, 2014

House Fire in Panama


   The Panama Fire Department received a structure fire call early this (Thursday) morning.  Firefighters arrived at 541 Goshen Road in Panama shortly after 12 AM.  Upon arrival, Panama Fire Cheif Vernon Sheldon Junior said the home was glowing and smoke was coming from the eaves.  Cold temperatures and freezing equipment made it a rough night for those on the scene, causing trucks and air packs to freeze.  The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department Investigation team arrived at the scene and determined the fire was caused by a malfunctioning wood stove.  The resident of the home was awoken by his dog and able to evacuate safely.  No injuries were reported.



Q & A Session with VestraCare


   Making the Chautauqua County Home profitable as a private entity is not all about cost-cutting but, expanding services and enhancing revenue.  That from one of the principles from VestraCare, the Long Island-based nursing home firm that's offering $16 million for the home during a special legislature meeting last night.  Edward Farbenblum and Shannon Cayea answered several questions about how they could turn the Dunkirk facility into a financially-viable institution that still provides quality service.  Farbenblum addressed employee issues such as pension plans and health insurance.

   When asked about whether the home would pay taxes based on it's assessed value, Farbenblum said yes, once the property's assessment had been determined.  He says the reason their purchase offer had been cut by $500,000 from last September is two-fold.  One is they did a new analysis of the facility and two, a proposed freeze or cut in Medicaid reimbursements from the state in Governor Cuomo's budget plan.



Status of the County Home and CSEA


   Most of the Chautauqua County Home's 280 employees will likely continue working at the facility if the purchase by VestraCare is approved.  Principles with the Long Island firm addressed employee and, resident issues at length during last night's meeting with county lawmakers.  VestraCare's Shannon Cayea told the legislature that it's their "intent" to hire back most all the workers.

    Cayea says employees must also pass a drug test.  She adds that they want local people, who are familiar with the home and it's residents, working there.  Cayea also says -- in their analysis -- the home is understaffed to deal with that's there... and, the expansions they are planning.  That sounded good to county Civil Service Employees Association President Steve Skidmore.  The CSEA currently represents County Home workers.  However, Skidmore adds many are "frightened" over the pending sale, so much so they're willing to leave the union.

    As for the 216 residents of the county home, Cayea says they in "no way, shape or form intend to evict any resident.  Regarding the very poor, she says they will "help them find a payer-source" so they can stay or more into the home.