Councilman Continues To Question Appointments
Questioning the appointment power of Mayor Sam Teresi is how Jamestown City Councilman Andrew Liuzzo’s first couple months in office will be remembered.
During all five meetings the council has held since the start of the year, which began with the organizational meeting Jan. 8, Liuzzo has questioned an appointment made by Teresi. During last week’s work session meeting, Liuzzo, At-Large councilman, requested for the city’s corporate counsel, Marilyn Fiore-Lehman, to draw up a resolution to allow the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce to select their own representative to the board of the Jamestown Local Development Corporation.
In December, the JLDC board approved new bylaws, which hadn’t been updated since the creation of the organization in 1981. The bylaw changes included a new provision allowing the city’s mayor, who serves as the JLDC board president, the power of appointment if a member organization’s president can not sit on the board.
Teresi said in December the new bylaw, as far as appointing members, was a practice that had been followed since the JLDC was formed in 1981. He said the prior bylaws had no formal rules on who was to serve on the board if the president of the organization couldn’t be a representative. Members of the JLDC board need to live in the city.
However, Todd Tranum, Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier executive director and Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce president, said in December the new bylaws provides more power to the mayor than the organizations on the JLDC board. Tranum, who lives in Bemus Point, cannot represent either MAST or the chamber on the JLDC board because he does not live in the city.
Following Liuzzo’s comments during the Feb. 5 work session meeting, Anthony Dolce, Ward 2 councilman, asked if the council has the authority to make changes to the JLDC’s bylaws. Teresi asked that Marilyn Fiore-Lehman, city corporation counsel, and Todd Thomas, city clerk and administrative services director, research the matter and provide a report for Monday’s meeting.
On Monday, Fiore-Lehman said the bylaw changes eliminates the council having any approval over JLDC decisions. Thomas said during the history of the JLDC the council has never had power over JLDC bylaws, but could accept changes.
Liuzzo once again challenged the appointment made by the mayor for MAST. Liuzzo said MAST had submitted its appointment to the JLDC board before the bylaws changes were approved during a JLDC meeting in December.
Teresi appointed Tim Smeal, Jamestown Community College development director, during the organizational meeting earlier this year.
Liuzzo said Tranum submitted a letter in May requesting that John Zabrodsky represent MAST on the JLDC board. In May, after JLDC MAST representative Justin Hanft, Chautauqua County Education Coalition director, had to resign because he moved out of the city of Jamestown, Tranum informed city officials that the MAST board had selected Zabrodsky as their new representative on the JLDC board.
Zabrodsky, who previously had been the chairman of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, was one of three former BPU board members — along with Wayne Rishell and Carl Pillittieri — who weren’t reappointed by Teresi in 2016. All three former BPU board members were opponents of the profit sharing from the BPU’s electric and water divisions with the city’s general fund.
Liuzzo then requested if the council does not have the authority to allow a JLDC member like MAST to select their own representative, that the three members of the council — Marie Carrubba, council president, Dolce, and Kim Ecklund, at-large councilwoman — to make the resolution request during a JLDC meeting.
The three members of the council on the JLDC board didn’t respond to Liuzzo’s inquiry, but Dolce and Ecklund showed their frustration that the appointment was being discussed for the third time in as many meetings. Dolce said by Liuzzo continuing to discuss this topic that it is implying the council and the JLDC did something wrong. He said the bylaw changes and the mayoral appointments have been discussed several times during open public meetings.
During the discussion, Liuzzo also asked if the new bylaw changes for the JLDC takes away the council’s authority to decide on the proposed sale of the Waste Water Treatment Plant. During the discussion, Liuzzo’s question was not answered by any other member of the council or by other city officials.
In December, Teresi, Jamestown mayor, proposed that the city sell the wastewater treatment plant, located in the town of Poland, to the JLDC in an effort to create a capital infrastructure and equipment program fund. He said the proposed list for the capital infrastructure and equipment fund programs, which isn’t finalized, includes replacing sanitary sewer lines and slip lining; upgrading the wastewater treatment plant; replacing or reconstructing water mains; continued energy or structural improvement programs for city facilities; enhanced storm water management improvement programs; Public Works and Parks departments equipment replacement fund; a debt service and sewer rate stabilization fund; and a future property tax reserve with additional property tax and rate relief.
The wastewater treatment plant property is assessed for between $15 million to $20 million.
Teresi said the proposal would have the JLDC taking out bonds to purchase the plant outright from the city of Jamestown, and the city would then pay to lease the plant for use until the bonding was fully paid off. At that time, the property would revert back to city ownership. The payments for the lease-to-own agreement would come from wastewater rates collected from throughout the wastewater service area, which includes areas outside of the city.
During the council’s first two meetings of the year, Liuzzo questioned Teresi’s appointment of former council president Greg Rabb to the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities and the city Planning Commission. Liuzzo said last month that city residents spoke through their vote that they no longer want Rabb involved in city government by voting him out of office.