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A Mediated Solution May Be Best For Annexation

It makes little sense that a public hearing on Jamestown’s proposed annexation of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities Dow Street substation, which has been rescheduled for Monday, should take place as scheduled.

First, it makes little sense to hold a public hearing on the annexation proposal a scant two days before Mayor-Elect Eddie Sundquist is sworn in. Sundquist has been very public with his questions and concerns regarding annexation, so it is likely that the public hearing is unnecessary if a new mayor isn’t going to follow through with the annexation. Sticking a new mayor with a policy he isn’t comfortable with — regardless of how much sense it makes for the city — makes little sense. Sundquist may come to the same conclusion that city officials have reached regarding annexation, but he should come to that decision on his own rather than having it forced upon him. In fact, the city making an annexation push might carry more weight had Sundquist come to the conclusion on his own that annexing the substation is the best course for Jamestown, its taxpayers and the majority of BPU ratepayers.

The second reason is state Sen. George Borrello, who said last week that he opposes the annexation proposal as constituted and stands ready work as a mediator between the city, Ellicott, Falconer and the Falconer Central School District. Borrello said he wants to work with the parties involved and arrive at a compromise that addresses the parties’ concerns. Jamestown, Ellicott, Falconer and the Falconer Central School District should take Borrello up on his offer. If consensus is impossible, Jamestown will have additional evidence for the referee panel that no compromise is possible. A referee’s panel has already ruled against the city’s proposal once, and one has to wonder how the city will fare since there have been no material changes to its case. We have referred to the city of Fulton’s annexation of land in the town of Granby before in this space. One thing the referee’s panel in that case was able to do was act as a mediator, getting Granby officials to moderate their position on the loss of tax revenue and getting the city of Fulton to find ways to make the city’s annexation beneficial to town residents.

A similar mediation needs to happen here. The Jamestown BPU, the city and the Jamestown Public Schools District desperately need the tax and spending relief the annexation proposal would bring. What can the city or BPU do to make the effort beneficial to its neighbor? Borrello proved earlier this year that he is capable of forging consensus on the previously impossible job of a Memorandum of Agreement for Chautauqua Lake. Borrello may be just the man for another tough job.

The public hearing will go on as scheduled. Once the process begins, the public hearing has to take place. The best thing to happen Monday, then, is for both sides to put away their swords, state their respective cases, and then take Borrello up on his offer to find a solution that benefits all parties.

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