JAMESTOWN – The proposed annexation of a piece of property in the town of Ellicott and village of Falconer by the city of Jamestown was once again the focus of attention at the Jamestown City Council meeting Monday night.
The proposed annexation involves the city expanding its border to include a small piece of property in Falconer that contains the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities’ Dow Street substation. The city is pursuing the annexation because it could result in an annual savings of $160,000 for the BPU, and would also result in the city getting an additional $160,000 in revenue through a payment in lieu of taxes by the BPU.
In addition, city officials say the annexation is in the public interest because the annexation would result in the property falling within the jurisdiction of the city’s police and fire departments. Currently it is in the jurisdiction of the town of Ellicott Police Department and the Falconer Volunteer Fire Department.
However, an annexation of the property would also result in the Village of Falconer, Town of Ellicott, and Falconer School District all losing out on thousands of dollars in tax revenue currently paid by the city. According to the Post-Journal, of the $322,090 the BPU pays in property taxes, $153,852 goes to the Falconer School District (.7% of the projected 2017-18 budget); $68,789 goes Falconer (5.3% of the village’s 2017 budget); $67,217 goes to the county (less than .01% of the 2017 budget); and $32,232 goes to Ellicott (.8% of the town’s 2017 budget).
ELLICOTT RESIDENTS VOICE OPPOSITION
During the council’s monthly voting session Monday night, several area residents spoke to the council and shared their concerns, including Ellicott Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin, who said such action wouldn’t very neighborly of Jamestown considering the city already benefits from a large number of residents and businesses in the town.
“The town of Ellicott, including the village of Falconer and the village of Celoron, have never looked to the city of Jamestown for fiscal support in our budget. I can empathize with the fiscal problems that you have. It’s tough making a budget, I know that. But none the less, we’ve been a pretty fair neighbor. If it weren’t for many of the people outside of the city who utilize and purchase utilities from the BPU – let’s be real – the BPU would not be in as good a shape as it is right now without those customers,” McLaughlin said.
Town of Ellicott resident Steve Vanstrom, who also has serves as Falconer Fire Advisory Board Chairman, warned the council that the annexation wont solve the city’s financial problems.
“So the question is: Are we neighbors or are we looking to prey on everyone else?” Vanstrom said. “There’s two ways to run government responsibly to make your budgets work. You can either reduce government costs or you can increase your income. My question to you is: Even if this works, how many rabbits do you have in the hat? At some point you’re going to have to negotiate with us. We’re going to have to be good neighbors or we’re going to have to start looking at our neighbors further out from the city.”
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, who’s already gone on record as supporting the annexation, said that while he understands he concerns from the residents, he also feels that the city has been a good neighbor and will continue to be in the future.
“The greater Jamestown area has long been a leader in inter-municipal cooperation,” Teresi said. “It’s a two-way street. At some point in time, one community is giving the benefit to the other and another point in time, a community is benefiting from the help of others. We don’t keep a scorecard here. It’s very easy for us to do so, but we think that this city has been a city of good neighbors to everybody around us. A collaborative partner with those municipal neighbors, a collaborative partner with Chautauqua County, and we’re looking to continue to be the lead example in the State of New York.”
Ranking Jamestown City Council member Tony Dolce also echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“There’s lots of examples of the use of mutual aid both in and outside of the city and certainly, we welcome having the sheriff’s office come into Jamestown, any of the Ellicott Police, or mutual aid with our fire department. It works both ways. It’s reciprocal and so we don’t want to damage that, but we’re going to see this process through and see where it takes us.”
No action was taken by the council on the issue of annexation during the May voting session. In April, the city did act on three resolutions that move the process forward and the annexation will be the focus of a joint public hearing scheduled for June 12 at 7 p.m. at Falconer Central School. Dolce will serve as the chair of the hearing, which is required under state law before the city council, Ellicott town board, and falconer village board can act on the annexation proposal.
Once the hearing is held, each municipality will have 90 days to act on voting for or against the annexation. Should any of the three vote against it, the matter will then have to be considered in the New York 4th Appellate Division court in Rochester.