JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council has voted in favor of the city borrowing up to $12,650,000 to pay for Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi’s Smart City Capital Investment plan.
The council took the action last night during its September voting session, less than one month after Teresi and various department heads rolled out the borrowing plan to the public.
However, a great deal of time was covered in going over the various details of the plan during both the council’s Sept. 9 and Sept. 23 work sessions. The program focuses on borrowing money to cover the cost of infrastructure, building, and capital equipment needs in the city. It includes a proposal to build a central garage for the city’s Department of Public Works, which would help the city better care for and manage its fleet of vehicles.
The vote on the plan wasn’t unanimous.
City Councilman Andy Liuzzo voted against it. Liuzzo is one of three individuals running for mayor of Jamestown in this year’s election to replace Teresi, who announced at the start of the year he would not be seeking a sixth term in office.
Liuzzo urged his colleagues to hold off on voting for the plan until after a new council and mayor is sworn in.
“I do not believe – since we have not received the budget, since this is the last three months of our mayor’s term – I don’t believe that 90 days is going to make that much of a difference in the emergency of this resolution being passed tonight. We need to consider how we’re going to pay this back. Yes there are estimates, but those aren’t real numbers, they are what we hope for,” Liuzzo said, adding, “I am not saying to scrap this resolution. I am not saying it is worthless, because it is not. It’s viable. What I am saying is that this should not be burdened on the next administration and the next council.”
Despite Liuzzo’s request, all other members of the council voted in favor of the resolution, including Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman Tony Dolce, who said that although the council is approving the borrowing of up to $12.65 million, specific items in the plan will also have to be approved as they come forward, meaning the city is not locked into borrowing all the money.
“This does just get the ball rolling. We are not locked into $12.65 million. We, or the next council and the next administration, would look at each of [the items in the plan] as they came down and determine… they would be evaluated on each individual merit as to, ‘Is it a valuable project? Are we going to go forward with it?'” Dolce said.
Following the meeting, Mayor Teresi said that both he and the current council members were elected to serve the residents of the city until Dec. 31 of this year, and that means they won’t be kicking the can down the road when it comes to addressing the needs of the city. He also said that the city can not and should not wait until an actual emergency occurs before it acts on addressing its various capital and infrastructure needs.
“The other metaphor I use [to explain this] is that a lot of folks are looking at the healthcare industry comparisons these days. Is it a healthcare plan to say you’re not going to go out and have insurance and seek proactive healthcare because when you get sick, you’re going to go to the emergency room? That is no way to run a city government. To let things go to hell in a hand basket, and when equipment starts blowing up to suddenly go out, in emergency mode, and have to pay more under distress and also to lose a lot in the way of service capability to the community. So what we’re doing is being proactive, getting ahead of the curve, and to spend smartly,” Teresi said.
Liuzzo also talked with WRFA following the meeting and said he was disappointed with the vote.
“There’s nothing in this loan that says we’re generating any income to pay to make these payments. Everything is speculation. We have four contracts coming up. We have a tight belt. We don’t even know what the budget is until next week. I wouldn’t run my household this way but this is how we’re running the house,” Liuzzo said.
According to Teresi, the final borrowing amount was about $250,000 lower than the original $12.9 million figure from the start of the month. That was because the Board of Public Utilities made adjustments to its portion of the borrowing plan.
We’ll have more on the bonding proposal when we interview Mayor Teresi Thursday at 5 p.m. on our Community Matters program.