City Council Hears From Library Supporters

For the second time since city budget deliberations started, the mayor’s conference room was filled with people supporting the James Prendergast Library.

On Monday during the Jamestown City Council budget meeting and work session, around 15 people showed up to support the library, asking city lawmakers to eliminate the 50 percent cut for the facility proposed in the 2018 executive budget. On Oct. 10, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi proposed that the library receive $50,000 from the city next year, which is $50,000 less than the library received this year.

Tina Scott, library director, said she understands the difficulties the city is having with their finances. In the 2018 proposed city budget, there is a $946,769 deficit. Scott said since 2013, the library has reduced their budget by more than 30 percent or $300,000. She said if the city doesn’t restore its funding, the library could be facing a 25 percent, or $20,000, cut in state aid.

Scott also said the proposed $50,000 from the city is lower than what most libraries in cities similar in size to Jamestown receive from their local municipality. She said these libraries receive around $90,000 from their local municipality.

Between the budget meeting and the work session, seven people spoke to the council, imploring them to reinstate the $50,000 cut for a total of $100,000 in funding for the library next year. The speakers, which included three library board members, said the library provides low-income residents access to books, videos and computers; is a valuable source for educational purposes; and nonprofits and community organizations regularly use the library for meetings and events.

“The library is serving those who need it the most,” Blackman said.

Greg Rabb, council president, said the issue of how much the city will fund the library next year has been a common topic with constituents in recent weeks. He said council members understand the importance of the library because three council members, including himself, are educators, one is a Jamestown Community College board member and three mentor students with their education through either Chautauqua Striders or their local churches. He added that it is not an easy decision to cut funding for the library, but he supports the mayor’s proposal because of the challenging fiscal circumstances city officials are face.

Anthony Dolce, Ward 2 councilman, said it is a difficult decision to cut funding to the library, but he said the budget is filled with difficult decisions that need to be made each year.

In other business, Vince DeJoy, city development director, discussed several economic development successes in the last year. These successes included the $10-million in funding from the state for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative; the renovation of the Key Bank building; the rehabilitation of the former Ramada Inn on Fourth Street into the DoubleTree by Hilton; the new Greater Jamestown Riverwalk pedestrian bridges; the development of the Jamestown Brewing Company, the creating of the high-tech New Flyer facility at the former Fluvanna Quality Markets building; and the demolition of 27 condemned houses, with financial assistance from the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation.

“These are real economic development drivers,” DeJoy said.

DeJoy said city officials are also working to help private developers with receiving state grants to renovate the former Vikings Building along Washington Street and to rehabilitate the Furniture Mart Building on the corner of Second and Washington streets.

Also during the budget meeting, Noah Goodling, Fenton History Center director, spoke to the council about the $16,000 in the proposed city budget that will go toward maintaining the Fenton Mansion, which the city owns. Goodling said Fenton officials are working on making the mansion Americans With Disabilities Act accessible, which includes the proposed installation of a new elevator.