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Council Election Features Three Uncontested Races

Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a six-part series featuring the candidates running for Jamestown City Council.

Three of the nine Jamestown City Council seats will be uncontested during the general election.

The three uncontested races include Anthony Dolce, Jamestown City Council president and Ward 2 councilman, Brent Sheldon, Ward 1 councilman, and Douglas Lawson, the challenger in Ward 5 to incumbent Grant Olson, who announced in September that he is not seeking another term because as a young professional — general manager at Axiom Office Imagining — and father his time has become increasingly limited.

Sheldon, who is running on the Republican and Conservative party lines, has been a councilman for a total of 10 years, holding the Ward 1 seat consecutively since 2014. Dolce, who has been endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties, is the longest-serving councilman in the history of Jamestown and is seeking his 14th two-year term on the council. Lawson was born and raised in Jamestown and is an IT professional who graduated from Jamestown Community College. Lawson has been endorsed by the Democratic Party.

Each candidate was asked the same four questions. Below are their responses.

Question 1: Do you think the city’s Proposed American Rescue Plan Act Recovery Funds Master Plan is the best way to spend the $28 million Jamestown will receive in federal stimulus funding? If you do, why? if you don’t, what would you change or add to the plan?

Dolce: The proposed American Rescue Plan that the city of Jamestown has put together covers a wide range of areas that will receive an allocation of funding. These areas include Lost Revenue; Economic Development; Infrastructure Projects such as Water, Sewer and Broadband; Community Health and Neighborhoods; and Transparency and Tracking. I am most concerned with is the Transparency and Tracking allocation. The proposed $900,000 includes the addition of hiring two employees to oversee these funds as a public communication coordinator, as well as hiring a Program and Events Coordinator. The concern with this part of the funding is that these positions will have to be eliminated once the funding expires.

I would rather see more funding allocated to our public safety departments for badly needed equipment which has not been able to survive the city budges in recent years.

Sheldon: I believe the master plan is essentially a sound plan for the city of Jamestown. However, I believe there will be amendments added to it before it is finalized. I also believe more details need to be released regarding specific spending. Vehicles and equipment for public safety should be added to the plan. These include new police cars, ballistic vests and communication equipment. And more money should be added to the mental health initiative.

Lawson: I believe the plan laid out so far is a good use of the funds. I’m slightly concerned with how we will pay for the additional employees after the funds are used up, but do see the need for the new positions. I’m excited to see plans for a dog park, and other much-desired projects in the city.

Question 2: Should the city of Jamestown opt in or out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites?

Dolce: With the legalization of cannabis in New York state, the question of whether the city should allow cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites needs to be addressed. The city has until the end of the year to decide if we should allow or opt out. If we opt out, like many of our surrounding municipalities have done, we would still have the option of opting back in at a later date. If we do not opt out, we would not have the opportunity to opt out at a later date, even if we felt it was necessary. While I can see the financial benefits of allowing the dispensaries. I am also concerned that there are many questions that still need to be answered at the state level. It’s my understanding that Gov. (Kathy) Hochul’s Cannabis Control Board has just met earlier this month to discuss the many questions and concerns on this issue, and has yet to promulgate any rules that will help us determine whether this will be in the best interests of the city.

Sheldon: Until more information regarding regulations and laws for cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites is released by New York state, the city of Jamestown should opt out. Once the rules and regulations are released and reviewed, the city could opt back in if it is right for the city. As it stands now, the law states if we don’t opt out now we can never opt out and that is wrong.

Lawson: The city should opt in. This is an industry that’s gonna thrive and bring in additional businesses, jobs, and tax revenue into the city, along with providing a safe cannabis product for those that choose to consume. With several counties in the area opting out, we can set an example and lead the way for how to handle cannabis production and sales.

Question 3: With the Jamestown City Council voting down a proposal to operate a controlled deer hunt to curtail the population of deer in the city, what should be the next step taken by the council to try to control the deer population in the city?

Dolce: The Jamestown City Council recently voted down a controlled deer hunt that was proposed for many reasons. There were concerns over the enforcement and the lack of oversite as well as the safety and the overall effectiveness of the program. While we realize the deer population has grown significantly over the past several years, a plan for deer management must include coordination with the Department of Environmental Conservation and our neighboring communities. I would support the Ad Hoc committee to continue to look at a variety of alternatives in addressing this problem. Any proposed solution needs to take into account public safety first, as well as a strong plan of enforcement, while also being able to effectively help control the deer population.

Sheldon: I am in favor of exploring the more humane method of immune contraception where does are injected with a single shot, a multiyear vaccine that decreases sexual activity and puts the deer in a non-reproductive state. Remote darting with a tranquilizer gun is an effective manner to deliver the dose by trained police officers or hunters.

Lawson: The city should look to set aside a budget for controlling the deer population. Hunting was the most cost-effective method and I do not think we should rule that out. But we can take more of a multi-pronged approach to tackling the issue, both with deterrents, partnering with other townships, and small controlled hunts. Deer have been the number one complaint I’ve heard from residents, and we can’t keep pushing this issue off.

Question 4: Should the city of Jamestown have a Local Preservation Ordinance? If you believe Jamestown should have one, why? If you don’t think Jamestown should have one, why not?

Dolce: It’s my understanding the Local Preservation Ordinance was proposed and discussed at the Jamestown Planning Commission board meeting recently. Many large cities have such ordinances to help preserve the historic nature of designated areas and neighborhoods. I believe the city needs to implement a preservation policy before an ordinance. While I can see some merits to an ordinance such as this, I am concerned about some negative effects it could have on a residents’ ability to maintain and renovate their properties as it could have a negative effect by discouraging long-time residents from being able to maintain their homes. I would encourage more dialogue and discussion on this topic. Any decisions should include input from the residents who live in these historic districts before any type of ordinance is implemented.

Sheldon: A local preservation ordinance has not been presented to the Jamestown City Council and I have seen very little on this issue. I would need to do more research on this ordinance before I decided if it is good for Jamestown property owners.

Lawson: I am undecided about the idea of implementing a Local Preservation Ordinance. I believe if handled correctly, in a soft approach, it could help retain the charm and look of older housing, which would increase value and the beauty of Jamestown. But I’m incredibly worried that we will see restrictive regulations and high costs associated with maintaining these homes, especially in a time when most can’t afford to increase their ownership costs. Done incorrectly, we could end up pushing residents out of Jamestown, and that’s the last thing we want to do.

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