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Council Urges Legislature To Revise Reforms

The Jamestown City Council has officially asked the state Legislature to revise its criminal justice reforms.

The council on Monday approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to immediately revise the newly enacted criminal justice reform laws during its regular voting session meeting.

Earlier this month, the council heard from Harry Snellings, Jamestown Police Department chief and city public safety director, who said department personnel have fallen behind on recording evidence because of the new criminal justice reforms laws, which were enacted by the state Legislature last April. He said his main concern is the new discovery law, which now requires all evidence to be submitted to the court within 15 days.

Snellings said to adjust to the impact of the new quicker discovery rules, the city’s police department started implementing new procedures at the beginning of December. He said department personnel have already fallen behind when it comes to physical evidence that is collected because of the attention needed on digital evidence. He added that Mark Dean, city IT director, has had to assist department personnel with collecting video evidence of each person being “booked.” Snellings said more than 150 people were booked in December.

“That’s a lot of video evidence,” he said.

Last spring, the state Legislature approved cashless bail for nonviolent defendants and a quicker discovery process, which is now only a 15-day process. Since the new laws were passed by the state Legislature, Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson and several police chiefs, including Snellings, have publicly stated the new laws will increase the workload on department personnel and will have a negative impact.

In other business, the council approved a resolution naming the city as the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the proposed annexation of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities Dow Street substation.

Last week, Eddie Sundquist, Jamestown mayor, told The Post-Journal this is just part of the annexation process no matter what decision is eventually made. He has communicated to the heads of the other municipalities involved in the process that the vote would take place Monday. He added that the other municipalities involved are also planning a similar vote on the lead agency for the SEQR process.

“It’s just a formality,” Sundquist said.

The council also approved the hiring of Clark Patterson Lee to the design work on the proposed new centralized fleet maintenance building. The resolution was approved 6-2, with new council members Grant Olson, Ward 5, and Jeff Russell, At-Large, voting against the measure. Neither councilman made a public statement to why they voted against the resolution.

Earlier this month, Tom Nelson, Ward 6 councilman and Public Works Committee chairman, said the city received two bids for the engineering design for the proposed building. He said Clark Paterson Lee had the proposal with the lowest bid at $150,000.

In September, city officials released the Smart City Capital Investment Program that includes the possible construction of a centralized vehicle maintenance facility. The facility is being proposed to be constructed along Crescent Street. The proposed new 20,000-square-foot facility would include 33% more storage space than city officials currently have available for vehicles and equipment.

The council is approved a resolution supporting a change to the state aid funding formula that would benefit Jamestown Community Colleges. Currently, the state aid funding floor is 98% of the previous year’s funding or a $100 increase per full-time equivalent student, whichever is greater. The proposed change would be a funding floor of 100% of the previous year or $100 increase per full-time equivalent student, whichever is greater.

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