ELMIRA — The Chemung County Legislature voted Monday night to authorize a contract with Marcus and Millichap Real Estate Investment Services to assist the county in determining the fair market value of the Chemung County Nursing Facility, explore available private or public partnership possibilities and to market the facility.
The resolution to enter in the agreement, which passed despite four legislators voting against it, stipulates that it should not be construed as a commitment by the legislature to sell the facility nor bind the county to sell it without further legislative action.
Minority Leader Christina Sonsire introduced a motion to table the resolution so that more information could be gathered as to what kind of services Marcus and Millichap will provide that failed to pass.
“The fact that government functions as a business makes a lot of sense, but the fact is we are not a business … imagine discussing privatization of the jail or highway department,” Sonsire said.
Sonsire’s motion failed, with only her and fellow legislators William McCarthy and Robert Briggs voting for the delay.
“I agree with Legislator Sonsire’s thesis that this is a big deal, but it is only the first step in the process,” said Legislator Rodney Strange.
Strange, who said that his father spent the end of his life in the facility, said he understood why the issue is such a passionate one for many in Chemung County.
“We should try to get all the information we can, not just financial information but also the impact the facility has on the community … This resolution is one step in the process and I don’t think it’s time to go out in the public, and start discussing options until we know all the details,” Strange said.
Despite acknowledging that entering into the agreement was part of a process, McCarthy said that doesn’t mean the legislature is still not rushing.
“I think we should postpone it because I don’t understand the rush to do the first step,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, Sonsire and Briggs were joined by Legislator Peggy Woodard in voting against the resolution.
When presenting his annual budget in November, County Executive Christopher Moss said that the issue of the nursing facility must be met “head on” in 2020.
“All options are on the table,” Moss said at the time, “whether public, private or selling the facility, we need to work on this to keep county finances positive.”
After the meeting, the possibility of term limits for members of the legislature and the position of county executive was discussed following the inability of Peggy Woodard to get the issue out of the Multi-Services committee earlier this month. According to legislature officials, Woodard made a motion to discuss the issue in the legislature during committee, but the motion failed after not receiving a second from any other members present.
“To say that I was disappointed that the question of term limits was not presented to the full legislature would be an understatement. In my opinion this is a legitimate issue and needs discussion,” said Vice Chairman John Burin.
While saying that he understood it was an issue that not every legislator was behind he was adamant that it should be determined by Chemung voters.
“(To that end) I would like to present a new motion for three four-year terms and then have the question presented to voters as a referendum,” Burin said.
Chairman David Manchester then said that motions of that nature cannot be presented to the floor through an individual legislator.
Following the meeting, legislative officials said that according to Chemung County Legislature rules no resolution can be presented by any legislator, including the chair unless first vetted in committee.