Proposed Sale Of City’s Wastewater Plant Draws Ire Of Area Leaders

A variety of voices spoke out Monday night against Mayor Sam Teresi’s proposal to sell the wastewater treatment plant.

Areas residents and officials from Jamestown and beyond shared their thoughts during the council meeting with regard to the possible sale of the plant to the Jamestown Local Development Corporation during the public comment session.

During a previous meeting, Teresi proposed that the city sell the wastewater treatment plant located in the town of Poland to the Jamestown Local Development Corporation in an effort to create and fund a capital infrastructure and equipment program.

Greg Lindquist, former Jamestown Renaissance Corporation executive director, gave his thoughts regarding the matter and asked for transparency. Lindquist said there had been little information provided to the public regarding the transaction.

“There are a number of items I think need to be really vetted before this can really go forward,” he said. “I would love to pay less in property taxes, but I do not want to leverage our future to accomplish that.”

Lindquist asked the council members, particularly those who sit on the Jamestown Local Development Corporation board, what jobs would be created with the transaction, as well as what businesses the transaction would allow to increase their employment perspectives.

“When this transaction, if it does occur, what will happen to the lending funds that are currently held in trust by JLDC?” Lindquist asked.

He said the JLDC has reported net operating losses for the past seven years, pointing out this is also the second year the state has had to provide funds for the city to “stay afloat.”

“I think we need to take a hard, long look at ourselves, and a look in the mirror for each one of the council persons, especially those that serve dual purposes because not only do you have fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of the city of Jamestown, but you also a have a fiduciary responsibility to Jamestown Local Development Corporation.”

Todd Tranum, Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier executive director, said the possible sale is a “reckless scheme.” Tranum pointed out that the state comptroller pushed for more oversight of Local Development Corporations in 2016, saying that the entities are “set up with good intention,” but there have been “real difficulties” surrounding them.

Tranum said officials from Monroe County, a county encompassing some of Rochester, closed down three Local Development Corporations this year, and assumed about $80 million in debt.

He said under sections 51 and 52 of the city charter, the city council or the Board of Public Utilities cannot sell or lease the wastewater treatment plant to any person or corporation unless authorized by a special election vote. Tranum said he also does not believe the purchase of an existing wastewater treatment plant is grounds for issuing LDC bonds.

“The BPU customers will pay twice for the same infrastructure,” he said. “The funding of the city’s general expense and non-utility needs by selling the plant to a related entity is improper.”

Tranum said the manufacturer’s association has retained the counsel of Harter, Secret and Emery.

“Our legal counsel will be in touch with the city’s corporation counsel this week,” he said.

A few others also spoke, including Doug Champ of Jamestown and Dan Heitzenrater of Falconer. After the public comment session, it was recommended by a legal official that council members and the mayor refrain from making comments regarding the situation until the matter was discussed further with Tranum’s counsel.