City Still Reviewing Police Staffing Contract With County

City officials are in the final stage of an analysis that might lead to a police staffing contract agreement with the county.

Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said city officials are still reviewing and vetting a police staffing agreement between the Jamestown Police Department and the Chautauqua County’s Sheriff’s Office. Teresi said in recent months city officials had to evaluate new information for the possible agreement stemming from the change in retirement years for county sheriff’s deputies.

In December, the Chautauqua County Legislature approved a new labor contract with the Sheriff’s Office. The contract for deputies and lieutenants went into effect Jan. 1. The new labor contract agreement with the county Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, with 63 members, and Supervisor’s Association, with eight members, included a wage increase that will go into effect in 2018, with lieutenants receiving a 2 percent increase and deputies collecting a 1.5 percent hike.

The contract also included a change from 25 years to 20 years of experience necessary to be included in the retirement system. Teresi said the retirement experience change has altered the numbers city officials were analyzing for the police staffing agreement.

”This is a more expensive retirement package. The new deputies’ contract does add costs to the county and reduces savings early on for the city, but there is still enough savings for the long-term (for the police staffing contract) to still be considered,” Teresi said. ”Long-term there is still enough benefit from the city’s standpoint. It still has value. The new contract reduces savings early on for the city, but doesn’t negate the long-term benefits.”

Teresi said the next step, if taken, is for the police staffing contract agreement to be brought to Jamestown City Council and Chautauqua County Legislature for review.

”We’re still involved in conversations on what the next steps might be. The process is grinding on for a determination on whether to bring forth to the County Legislature and City Council,” he said. ”We’re still looking at it carefully. Still in final stages of analysis. Hopefully, we’re nearing the point (where a decision will be made) in short order.”

A projected $25,000 savings included in the 2017 budget will not come to fruition this year, Teresi said. Last year, city officials passed a budget with a projected $25,000 savings from a not-yet-agreed-upon city/county police staffing contract.

”The projected savings for 2017 is gone,” Teresi said. ”Depending on if the program moves forward, the savings could kick-in during 2018 at a lesser level because of the new (sheriff’s labor) contract agreement.”

Teresi got the ball rolling on the possible consolidation between the city and county police when he discussed the topic in his annual State of the City address in 2007. A task force for the effort was formed later that year. Funds were needed, however, to hire consultants and third-party legal counsel, as well as to complete studies.

City Council then applied for a grant from the state Department of State Local Government Efficiency program to study the consolidation in December 2008. In July 2009, the city was awarded a $400,000 grant. Also in 2009, the city and county completed a consolidation study with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services resulting in a baseline analysis of opportunities and challenges confronting the first city/county merger of police operations in the state.

In 2012, City Council voted to take the next step in the consolidation process by entering into a contract with the Center for Governmental Research for $168,000 to analyze the differences and similarities between the two departments and draft a plan for implementation. That same year, the Center for Governmental Research released a report detailing options for merging the Jamestown Police Department and the county Sheriff’s Office. One of the options proposed from the report would be for Jamestown to contract for staffing services with the county. The plan proposes as Jamestown officers leave the city’s department, like when an officer retires, they would be replaced by a sheriff’s deputy. The deputy would be assigned to the city and report to the Jamestown police chief, but would be accountable under the county sheriff.

In March 2016, City Council approved funding $20,000 to the Center for Governmental Research for the next phase related to the completion of a police consolidation study.

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