Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The possible sale of The Villages of Orleans, known as the Orleans County Nursing Home, has left many in the county asking for a referendum on the issue.
On Wednesday, Dave Callard said that cannot happen because it is illegal.
“I know there has been discussion on this, but it simply cannot be authorized,” said Callard, who is the Orleans County Legislature Chairman.
In a prepared statement provided to the press, Callard wrote, that the nursing home discussion requires clarification as to whether or not there can even be a vote. He wrote, “The county government, as an administrative unit and political subdivision of the State of New York, does not have the power to supersede or override state laws.
“There is no authority granted to the county legislature by the law of New York State to hold a referendum on issues that are not specifically authorized for referenda in state law.”
According to the provided statement, New York State does not allow any municipality at the county level the option of submitting “a question to referendum, either advisory or binding, in the absence of express statutory authority.”
Opinions of the New York State Attorney General and the Office of the State Comptroller have also been handed down over the years concerning such an issue, the statement said. Using local money to hold a vote on such issues is “simply … illegal” the statement said.
A brief discussion followed, during which Legislator George Bower spoke in favor of a vote.
“What if this legislature decided today that we needed a vote?” he asked. “What if we thought we just couldn’t do this and we wanted a vote?”
Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer, referred to the opinions of the state comptroller and attorney general. “There are certain instances where referenda are authorized, but this is not one of them,” Nesbitt said.
Albion resident Dee Smith voiced her displeasure with the non-vote when the floor was opened for public comment.
“I don’t feel important to any of you people,” she told the legislature. “I feel so…I’m not looking forward at all to going to a privatized nursing home, and I’m so disappointed that we don’t have a vote.”
In other county news, the legislature passed a local law aimed at saving some taxpayer money.
The law is aimed at prisoners in the county jail who require medical or dental services. Only one question was raised during the public hearing for the law, and it essentially was, “what is this?”
Legislator Lynne Johnson said the new law will allow the county to request that prisoners who had or have insurance to have their insurance billed for services first.