LIUZZO WANTS NYCOM MORE INVOLVED IN FIGHTING MANDATES, WILFONG SAYS LEGISLATURE SHOULD HELP LEAD REGIONALIZATION EFFORTS
JAMESTOWN – Both Republican candidates running for mayor of Jamestown agree that city police officers and fire fighters deserve every cent they are paid by local taxpayers. But both Andrew Liuzzo and David Wilfong also acknowledge that financial challenges facing Jamestown will likely prevent public safety workers from getting all they they deserve.
In 2019 the city of Jamestown has budgeted nearly a third of its total budget – $11 million – toward police and fire salaries and other related expenses. And a larger chunk could be on the way if a state appellate court upholds a recent state Supreme Court decision involving an arbitration ruling giving the police union a 2% pay raise. City officials say any increase the police receive in salary will also likely be given to firefighters as well, so the outcome of the arbitration appeal will be a challenge facing whoever is the next mayor of the city.
Liuzzo is currently a member of the Jamestown City Council and is the only council person to vote against challenging the arbitration ruling in State Supreme Court, as well as voting against the decision to appeal the Supreme Court decision.
Liuzzo told WRFA in our recent interview that it’s not the salaries but the healthcare and pension mandates from Albany that are what the city should be focused on.
“This all goes back to our retirement benefits and our healthcare benefits, and the Taylor Law and the Triborough Amendment. These laws and amendments have hurt upstate communities immensely. These were downstate laws that got applied to the whole state,” Liuzzo said. “My question would be, ‘Why hasn’t the New York Conference of Mayors, as a group, addressed this?’ Our current mayor was president of NYCOM, yet that question is still out there. Why wasn’t this addressed? These kinds of laws are what has hurt upstate New York Communities.”
Liuzzo added that he would also be willing to local at regional policing by trying to improve relationship with adjacent communities like the Town of Ellicott and Busti – which each have their own police force as well.
“Jamestown encompasses West Ellicott, Ellicott, Lakewood-Busti. What I would like to see is an inter-municipal police force. I would like us to negotiate instead of litigate with our neighbors and come to an agreement where we can use the existing police force we have outside of Jamestown to be the same police force. And to protect all of us. That’s one way I see of bringing the cost down, or at least maintaining the cost,” Liuzzo explained.
Wilfong has served on the Chautauqua County Legislature since 2014 representing Jamestown. During his time in Mayville a report was completed by the Center or Governmental Rochester using over $200,000 in state money that provided a plan to consolidate the Jamestown Police Department with the County Sheriff’s office gradually, over two decades or no longer.
The consolidation would come at no additional cost to county taxpayers but would save Jamestown some money. That plan was never put up for a vote, let alone publicly discussed by Wilfong and his colleagues after it was completed.
Wilfong said he agrees that regional policing may be better solution, though the push should come from the state, not the local, level.
” It would have been very difficult to put together a group of people that would have voted in favor of the consolidation. I don’t know if that would ever go off. I’ve seen it, I’ve read the document and I actually think it was a good proposal. But one of the things is, ‘Do we want a change?’ I don’t know if the Jamestown Police Department wants to merge and I don’t know if the sheriff wants to merge,” Wilfong said. “I did see the figures and the cost savings would be good for the city of Jamestown and a flat cost the county. But we’re talking about the county legislators and you’ve got to get them on board with their own districts. Because what they’re going to say is, ‘How does that benefit my district. I live in Silver Creek or I live in Findley Lake.’ It’s a hard sell.”
Instead, Wilfong said he’d prefer to see the effort to deal with police costs lead by the state representatives, similar to what former Sen. Cathy Young had worked on with school districts.
“I am not against it. I think to make change and to move our county forward and our state forward, we’ve got to start thinking consolidation. I don’t know at the mayor level what can be done there. I think that needs to be done more at the state level – maybe our assemblyman or our next senator. I think that is where that type of change has to come from,” Wilfong said.
The complete audio of our interview with Liuzzo and Wilfong can be found at our website.
Liuzzo and Wilfong will square off in the June 25 Republican Primary, which runs from noon to 9 p.m. and is eligible to all 3800 registered republicans living in the city.
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