JAMESTOWN – A piece of property in downtown Jamestown will be put back on the tax rolls, despite some opposition from the four Democrats serving in the Chautauqua County Legislature.
During Wednesday night’s legislature meeting, lawmakers voted to 15 to 4 in favor of selling the South County Office Building property, located at the corner of 4th and Pine Streets, to Jamestown Rental Properties, LLC for a price of $1.7 million.
As part of the sale, the county, which uses the building to house its social services operation, would rent the space it uses at an initial annual cost of $591,000 with a 4 percent increase in rent for each year over a ten year period.
Two other buildings, the Frank W. Bratt Agricultural Center in Ellicott and the Sherman Shop Maintenance Facility, were also approved for sale for $75,000 each to the same buyer
Democratic Lawmakers, as well as Democratic County Executive Candidate Mike Ferguson and Jamestown Democratic Legislator Candidate Frank Besse voiced their opposition to the sale.
Ferguson also said that by selling the property to a private owner, local tradesman would likely be outbid when it comes time to do renovation work on the building.
“I had the opportunity to meet with union leaders who are concerned that the sale of the building will annul any agreements they may have and thereby eliminate the prevailing wage for any work being done on these buildings once they are sold to a private owner,” Ferguson said at the start of the meeting during the first privilege of the floor.
Under law, the county is required to pay prevailing wages when contracting for work on its buildings and facilities. No such requirement is in place for private sector operations like Jamestown Rental Properties.
Besse also said that he would prefer to first have a market analysis done and then going out for rebid so the county would know for sure it was getting the best deal possible.
“During my research I saw that only two proposals were put forth for purchasing this building. I find that inadequate for selling such a large asset that the count holds in the heart of downtown Jamestown,” Besse said. “As someone that believes the vibrant future of downtown I would see it in the best interest of the county to hold onto this asset for years to come and find the best way to be part of the renaissance that is occurring downtown.”
In addition, there was concern about the future of social services in Jamestown after the ten-year period is up because there is no guarantee the county would be able to renew its lease with the buyer.
However, the Republicans in the legislature, who carry the vast majority, all voted in favor of the proposal – saying it was a fair deal and it also will help the struggling city of Jamestown by adding property to the tax roll. Currently no taxes are paid for the property because it is county owned.
County Executive Vince Horrigan, who’s office pushed for the sale of the property, also said that Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi was in favor of the sale as well.
“Jamestown is at max tax limit and it’s important to get this on the rolls,” Horrigan said. “I talked to the mayor, he’s very much in favor of this and so is the director of development [Vince Dejoy]. So this is very good news for the city and most importantly it’s good for the county. We need to save that money and I projected it’s going to help us all the way.”
Horrigan said it’s not know how much money in taxes the sale will yield for Jamestown because an assessment has not yet been done on the property.