ROCHESTER – It’s still not known when a state appellate court will hear arguments involving Jamestown’s proposed annexation of a piece of city-owned property located in the village of Falconer / Town of Ellicott.
The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court – 4th District in Rochester released its October calendar earlier this week and, yet again, the annexation case is not on the docket.
It was one year ago that the Jamestown City Council unanimously voted to annex the Jamestown Board of Public 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 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.
Since September 2017, officials and attorneys from both sides have prepared their arguments and presented evidence in the case and have been waiting on the court to schedule a hearing for oral arguments to be presented.
“We’re hoping for the November-December term of the fall calendar so this can get moving,” Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi recently told WRFA. “Both sides have submitted written arguments and any additional supplement papers that the court has asked for. Now it’s a matter of getting it on the calendar and having oral arguments in the appellate division.”
The city is being represented by the law firm Bond, Schoeneck, & King, while the village and town are being represented by Harris Beach PLLC.
Ironically, property owners in the town of Ellicott and Falconer who also have BPU service are helping to pay for the attorneys on both sides, since their local tax dollars are being used to help pay for the services of Harris Beach while their BPU payments are being used to pay for representation from Bond, Schoeneck & King. So far the expenses for the city’s legal representation in the case is $130,000. No word on how much Falconer and Ellicott have spent on their attorneys for the annexation case.
According to the BPU, the Dow Street substation property is assessed at more than $7.8 million. Currently, the BPU electric division pays approximately $322,100 a year in real property taxes to the county, town of Ellicott, village of Falconer and Falconer Central School District. If the property was annexed and included in the city, then the BPU would save around $162,000 a year – because the BPU would make tax equivalency payments to both the city and Jamestown school district.
Ever since first being proposed by the BPU in January as a way to help save money the annexation proposal has garnered controversy and strained relations between the city and its neighbors in Ellicott and Falconer.
“I have no problem with the city seeking to find other ways to increase revenue. No problem whatsoever. I applaud you in those efforts,” Falconer School Superintendent Steve Penhollow said during a public hearing on the matter in June 2017. “But when you’re sources of revenue are coming from our revenue sources, that is not what neighbors do and that is not how neighbors treat other neighbors and I find a bit of concern with that.”
The city has also argued that the annexation is in the public’s interest, partly because the property would fall under the jurisdiction of the professional Jamestown Fire Department, rather than the Falconer Volunteer Fire Department. The city has a professional fire department with fire crews at the station 24 hours a day. Falconer has a volunteer fire department that requires volunteers to be called to the station before being sent out on an emergency call. Attorneys for the city stated during a June 2017 Public Hearing that this could affect the response time on a fire call, should an emergency call be made to the substation. Falconer and Ellicott officials have countered by saying the Falconer Fire Hall is the closest to the property, adding that firefighters from the nearest station in Jamestown would have to cross a rail line in order to get to the property, which could impact response time.