JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council will be acting on a resolution to proceed with the annexation of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities Dow Street Substation property when it meets Monday in city hall.
There are actually two resolutions on the agenda focusing on the issue of annexation. One resolution involves proceeding with annexing the property from the Town of Ellicott and Village of Falconer into the city boundaries, while the other resolution involves approving a state environmental review of the site.
The annexation resolution states that city officials, including mayor Eddie Sundquist, recently held discussion with officials from Ellicott, Falconer and the Falconer School District to determine whether they could address the concerns that have been raised so that the annexation can proceed with the consent of all municipalities. However, the resolution further states that that the town, village and school district have all refused to continue those discussions.
As a result, the city council will proceed with a vote, which comes following a Dec. 30 joint public hearing on the matter. Under state law, the city council has up to 90 days to formally vote for or against the annexation from the date that the public hearing took place.
Ellicott, Falconer and the Falconer School District have each stated that they don’t support an annexation because it means they would be missing out on over $330,000 in annual tax payments paid by the BPU for the property.
The city says it wants to annex the property into its own jurisdiction, arguing it is in the public interest of the entire BPU service area because it would ultimately help to save the BPU’s electric division over $160,000 every year. That savings would come from the BPU not having to pay taxes on the property, although $160,000 would then be paid to the city and the Jamestown Public Schools as part of a payment in lieu of tax agreement the BPU has with the city and school district.
If the story feels like Deja Vu, that’s because the Jamestown city council took similar action on annexing the same piece of property in April 2017, launching a two-year long legal battle after both Ellicott and Falconer officials voted to block the initial annexation attempt. In August 2019 the New York 4th Appellate Division ultimately ruled against the annexation on a technicality, saying the required paperwork from the city’s legal team of Bond, Schoeneck & King to have the court review and rule on the case was not filed in a timely fashion.
That decision came only after the BPU spent $405,000 from its electric division budget to proceed with the annexation. Meanwhile, Falconer, Ellicott, and the Falconer School District spent over $300,000 to fight it.
Even if the paperwork for the initial annexation effort was filed on time, Ellicott and Falconer officials say the court would have ruled against the city, basing their assumption on a unanimous recommendation that was submitted to the court by a three-member referee panel at the end of 2018.
The BPU has hired the same law firm to handle the annexation case this time around but this time it is locked in to only being paid $75,000 to deal with the entire process.
If the city council tonight approves the resolution to move the annexation forward, the town of Ellicott and village of Falconer will then be given the option to vote against the annexation, which would then mean the matter would again have to be settled in state appellate court.