On Friday, Jan. 1 the Jamestown City Council held its first meeting of the year, which focused mostly on approving mayoral appointments as well as appointing the council president and committee chairs for the new term.
Councilman Gregory Rabb (D, At Large) will once again serve as president, making 2016 the ninth consecutive year he’s held the post. The committee chairs will also remain the same as last year, with Tony Dolce (R, Ward 2) serving as Finance chair, Marie Carrubba (D, Ward 4) serving as Housing chair, Maria Jones (D, Ward 5) serving as Public Safety chair, and George Spitale (D, At Large) serving as public works chair. The only new member to join the council is Victoria James (D, Ward 3), who defeated Alphonso Pagan (R) in November’s general election.
During the New Year’s Day meeting, Rabb also took time to outline the council’s agenda for 2016. Among the items he mentioned was the recommendation to consolidate the Jamestown Police Department with the County Sheriff’s Office.
“I ask that we continue to work cooperatively to achieve potential savings in the way we police our community by implementing the recommendations of the City/County task force while always keeping public safety our number one concern,” Rabb said in prepared statement to the council and other city officials in attendance.
As for public safety, the council president said the focus needs to continue to be on the ongoing drug epidemic sweeping the region, treating it more as a health issue.
“I ask that we continue to work with our public and private sector partners by approaching the current national drug epidemic as first and foremost a public health crisis destroying friends and families alike, potentially sapping the strength of our community. We need to continue to work to find a way to provide for a local residential treatment center,” he said.
TROUBLED FINANCIAL OUTLOOK FOR 2016 AND BEYOND
Rabb did not specifically mention the city’s current financial crisis, which was brought to the forefront near the end of last year when the council approved a 2016 spending plan that all but reaches the city’s constitutional taxing limit. In addition, the city used its remaining fund balance to help close a budget gap and it appears there will be little to no additional aid coming in from Albany. So unless new revenue sources can be found or the city’s tax base sees significant growth during the next several months, Jamestown will be in financial dire straits for 2017.
Some in the community have already hinted at the troubles that could come with financial instability – with the possibility of a state control board coming in to oversee city operations.Rabb told WRFA following Friday’s meeting he is aware of the possibility, and the council will do all it can to see that it doesn’t happen.
“The only thing I can assure you of is that the council is well aware of that,” Rabb said. “If anybody – other than the mayor – is aware of the potential for a control board, it’s us. We’re going to be doing our best to not to have that happen. But I can’t make any guarantees. Hopefully this will be good year for us with revenue sources and expenses, but I can’t guarantee anything. We’re going to be working very hard and monitoring expenses to make sure we don’t find ourselves in that situation.”
The City Council’s first work session of 2016 will take place Monday with various committees meeting starting at 7 p.m. The full council work session is at 7:30 p.m. in the mayor’s conference room on the 4th floor of city hall. It is open to the public.