Annexation Plan Should Be Set Aside For Now

After two years, Jamestown, Falconer and Ellicott are no closer to a resolution on a proposed annexation of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities’ Dow Street substation in Falconer.

The Fourth Department Appellate Division ruled last week that the city was too late in filing its original proceeding in state Supreme Court, which meant the court didn’t have to rule on the actual questions of law that the annexation proposal presented. It’s ludicrous to us, given the amount of money spent on lawyers in this case, that one of the city’s lawyers would miss a pretty easy and set in stone filing date in the city’s own case. Because of the seeming incompetence of the attorneys handling the case, the Board of Public Utilities, town of Ellicott, village of Falconer and Falconer Central School District are out hundreds of thousands of dollars with no one receiving an answer to the legal questions that need to be answered about the annexation.

The city’s lawyers seemed to have crossed their Is and dotted their Ts. It doesn’t speak well for the quality of legal advice they received.

That’s too bad, because the last thing anyone from Jamestown, Ellicott or Falconer should want is the annexation debate and discussing lingering any longer.

We do hope, when the proposal eventually comes up again, that it is handled differently. Ellicott, Falconer and the Falconer Central School District shouldn’t hear about annexation through newspaper articles or legal filings. While everyone knows the ensuing dispute will be resolved in court, the discussions may bear more fruit if they begin without everyone’s lawyers in the room. We are, after all, neighbors. Perhaps more productive discussions in the future can happen in board rooms rather than court rooms — but that time will likely come when the issue is a little less fresh for all involved.

In the short term, it seems to us the annexation proposal should be laid aside. The BPU will continue paying a total of around $325,000 in property tax payments to the village of Falconer ($69,000); town of Ellicott ($34,000); Falconer Central Schools ($154,000); and Chautauqua County ($69,000). While the arrangement certainly doesn’t benefit Board of Public Utilities ratepayers, taxpayers on both sides do not benefit right now from spending even more money on lawyers and legal filings while another annexation proposal spends two years winding its way through the court system.

We hope, now that the issue is put to bed for now, candidates for office in the city, town and village will speak freely about all of the issues that the annexation case brought forward. Perhaps, from the annexation case’s procedurally dismissed ashes new ideas can arise that accomplish some of the BPU’s goals.