JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council will be taking up a proposal that requires all city police officers hired after January 1, 2021 to be residents of the city of Jamestown for at least five years.
The proposed local law to update the city charter will be reviewed and discussed during the council’s next work session on Monday, Aug. 24.
According to the work session agenda and packet that was sent out the media (page 29) on Thursday afternoon, the proposed local law is being brought forward by Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s office and is due to interest from both the mayor and some city council members on establishing a residency requirement for the city.
According to a memo from the mayor’s office, currently only 28% of the city’s 60-member police force lives in Jamestown. It also says there are other communities in the state that already have residency requirements, including the Lakewood-Busti police department, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls.
The call for city police to be residents in the city was one of the requests that was brought up during a recent Black Lives Matter rally in Jamestown in early June. Following that rally, we spoke with Mayor Sundquist during our June 4 Community Matters program and asked him his thoughts on a residency requirement for officers.
“Generally, unless there is very specific laws on the books, we can’t really restrict them from living outside of the city and working for the city. There has been some recent shift in case law, specifically up in Niagara Falls, where the courts have allowed some local laws to be passed to require just police officers to live in the city that they work,” Sundquist said.
During the June interview, Sundquist also said that he would want to have a conversation with the police union before putting forward a residency requirement for officers.
“What we want to do more than anything is to work with our bargaining units to try to incentivize to get our employees to live in the city. We’ve been talking with our department of development to create a program to get our employees to buy homes that are going up for tax sale or auction, or other properties that we can help them find. We’ve also talked about potentially supporting closing costs when buying homes in the city. Things we can do to encourage all our employees – just not police and fire – to be residents of the place where they work and take pride in their community,” Sundquist explained.
While Sundquist said in June that incentives could be applied to help offset the cost of buying a home or living in the city, the prefiled resolution for next week and attached memo from the mayor makes no mention of any such incentives, but does say the proposal would come at no added cost to the city. It also goes on to say that if all police officers owned a home in Jamestown (at the median assessed value of $64,400), it could mean as much as $67,000 per year in additional property tax revenue for the city budget.
Meanwhile, WRFA reached out to acting police chief and former president of the Jamestown Kendall Club, Timothy Jackson, who said he supports the proposal.
“I fully support the proposed local law for future Police Officers hired by the City of Jamestown. I am a lifetime resident of the City of Jamestown,” he told WRFA in an email Friday morning.
The proposed local law calls for updating Chapter 72, Article IX of the city charter and states that sworn police officers with the city whose employment begins after January 1, 2021 must maintain continuous residency in the city of Jamestown for five consecutive years and also states that newly appointed officers will be given six months to move into the city, if they are currently not a resident. After five years, the officers will have the opportunity to live in another community within Chautauqua County or adjacent county.
The local law would require a public hearing before it goes into effect and the city council won’t likely vote on the proposal until its September voting session.
The city council will meet next week at 7:30 p.m. in person at the Board of Public Utilities Board Room on Steele Street. However, the meeting is not being opened to the public due to COVID-19 and will instead be streamed online at the city website. Anyone with public comments for the meeting is asked to submit them in writing by 10 a.m. Monday to the city clerk’s office via email – clerk @ jamestownny.gov, by mail, or dropped off at the office during regular business hours.