JAMESTOWN – Legal fees in the annexation case between the city of Jamestown and the Town of Ellicott / Village of Falconer continue to climb.
On Monday afternoon the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities unanimously approved a $110,000 change order for the law firm Bond, Schoeneck, and King related to the case going before the Appellate Division, Fourth Department at some point later this year.
The approval by the board came with no discussion or comment from board members and only a brief explanation from BPU General Manager David Leathers. The change order also was not included on the prefiled agenda that had been posted on the BPU website for the public on Friday, and instead was only included on the printed agenda that was provided at the start of Monday’s BPU meeting.
Total legal fees for the city’s representation in the case are now set at $280,000. That figure represents the spending limit for the designated law firm and not the actual amount that has been paid.
“It was anticipated and it is what it is. Justice, sometimes, and working through the legal system is certainly not inexpensive,” explained Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, who is also president of the BPU.
The money comes from the BPU Electric Division and not the city general operating budget, meaning revenue collected from all BPU customers, both inside and outside of the city, is being used to pay the city’s legal fees in the case.
It is not known how much the village of Falconer, Town of Ellicott, or Falconer School District have paid in legal fees for representation from Harris Beach PLLC. WRFA has reached out to those three parties in an effort to get the total cost of fees for their side in the case.
It was one year ago that the Jamestown City Council unanimously voted to annex the BPU Utilities’ substation property located in Falconer, with a portion of the land being adjacent to the border between the village and the city. The city had argued that because the property sits on the village line with the city and is owned by the city, it is eligible for annexation.
In early September 2017 the Falconer Village Board voted against the annexation and the Ellicott Town Board did the same. As a result, the matter has to be settled in state appellate court.
If the annexation is approved, the BPU would save around $160,000 a year in property tax payments, with the city and the Jamestown School District receiving tax equivalency payments of around $80,000 from the BPU.
As WRFA reported last week, the court has yet to set a date for when oral arguments in the case will be made before the court, but Mayor Sam Teresi said that things are moving forward with preliminary meetings and a hearing schedule for September and October. All that will be in preparation for oral arguments before Rochester-based court, likely in November.
“A hearing now has been set. A three-member ‘referee’ panel [from the Appellate Court] will be meeting in early September in preparation for a hearing in October with all parties,” Teresi said, noting that the hearing will likely take place in Mayville. “A report will then be sent on to the Appellate Division, which we expect will then be meeting before the end of the year in Rochester to hear final oral arguments, with a decision to be rendered, we hope, if not by the end of the year then by early next year.”