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BPU Services Will Stay On During Outbreak

The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities said it will not shut off electric or water service to any customers with a delinquent account during the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak.

On Monday, Grant Olson, BPU board member, asked David Leathers, BPU general manager, a question about shutting off BPU services to customers during the pandemic. Leathers said BPU officials are still issuing disconnect notices to customers who have a delinquent account. However, Leathers said the notification states the BPU will not shut off their service.

“A lot of people are struggling, so we’re not going to shut off electric or water,” he said.

Leathers said from a financial perspective there will be challenges for the city-owned utility because of the virus. He said BPU officials probably won’t start to notice the financial impact until May.

In other BPU business, the board approved a new four-year contract extension with Teamsters Local 264, who represents 12 full-time solid waste employees. The current contract was set to expire at the end of 2021. Following the contract extension, the new agreement is set to expire Dec. 31, 2025.

According to a BPU news release, the new agreement provides wage increases of 2% for full-time Level I employees in the years 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025. Three employees comprise full-time Level I status. Full-time Level II employees will see a new, eight-year graduated pay scale that starts at $16.50 per hour.

Negotiations also resulted in the parties agreeing to health insurance plan contribution changes that were effective March 1. The solid waste division employees have health insurance coverage through a teamsters plan, they are the only workers who aren’t covered by the BPU self-funded health benefits plan.

“The negotiations with Teamsters Local 264 were reopened a year early in an effort to improve employee recruitment and retention by adjusting the wage scales and to secure significant cost savings for what the BPU contributes to the teamsters health insurance plan,” Leathers said. “Our solid waste employees are valued for providing diligent and vital services to the BPU and to our customers. We are pleased to reflect our appreciation through this new contract, for both our employees by recognizing their outstanding contributions and our ratepayers by achieving overall contractual expense reductions over the length of the agreement.”

The BPU also had a short discussion about the proposed annexation of the Dow Street substation. Jim Olson, BPU board member, asked about regular updates on the annexation case. Eddie Sundquist, Jamestown mayor and BPU board member, said because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the court system has suspended the filing of any non-emergency documents. Olson said he understands, but doesn’t want the same situation to occur again that took place in 2017 during the city of Jamestown’s first annexation attempt when its lawyers, Bond, Schoeneck & King, failed to file the necessary paperwork with the county clerk’s office in a timely manner.

In August 2019, the Fourth Department Appellate Division Court in Rochester dismissed the city’s first annexation petition on a technicality, stating that the city’s original proceeding was untimely.

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