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A Good First Step Would Be Borrello’s Mediation Offer

We hope state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, is successful in bringing Falconer, Ellicott and Falconer Central School District officials back to the table in his attempted mediation of Jamestown’s attempt to annex a Board of Public Utilities substation on Dow Street.

It would be unfortunate if the talks fall apart, in part because some of the things being proposed by the city might be good policy that shouldn’t be thrown out.

Meetings between the two sides had resulted in offers by the city to either phase in the annexation or proceed with a partial annexation. Either of those proposals would have allowed Falconer and Ellicott to work the annexation — whichever form it took — into their budgets over time. City officials were amenable to continuing partial tax payments to the Falconer Central School District. City and BPU officials offered an extension of BPU garbage collection into the town and village if it would result in a cost savings for town and village residents. Even items that had long been considered untouchable before were on the table, including helping Ellicott with a grant application to secure state and federal funding to turn Strunk Road from Exit 11 of Interstate 86 to the city line into a four-lane road to help develop additional business in the town’s property near the interchange. City officials even mulled helping the town with additional water service to the area. Any of the discussions were very preliminary, though, because Falconer, Ellicott and the Falconer Central School District walked away from talks before the city and its neighbors could actually discuss numbers.

Anthony Dolce, R-Ward 2 and City Council president, had also convinced the council to wait until the last possible minute to act on annexation resolutions in an effort to give the discussions between the two sides as much time as possible to take place.

We’re not sure either group’s attorney wants these discussions to continue. Patrick McLaughlin, Ellicott supervisor, said the town, village and school districts walked away because the city refused to completely drop the annexation as was discussed in December when town, school and village officials met with then-Mayor-elect Eddie Sundquist. Sundquist had indicated his opposition to annexation and, according to McLaughlin, Sundquist even indicated that he would veto the council’s annexation resolutions. We can’t imagine the city’s attorneys in the annexation case being happy with the city proposing changes either.

There is still time to change the resolutions approved on Monday. Nothing has to be finalized until March 29, which is the end of the 90-day window that began with a public hearing held in December. Both sides have indicated a willingness to continue discussions, but the city absolutely should not abandon its existing annexation petition. The possibility of annexation is the only mechanism holding both sides’ collective feet to the fire to come to the table with both ideas that could lead to a resolution and the willingness to work together.

We hope these talks are not irrevocably broken. There is a public interest in some of the ideas broached. And, we’re not sure the idea of regionalism and good neighbor action has taken a back seat to a “what’s best for me” attitude. Helping Ellicott develop Strunk Road would likely continue cannibalizing Jamestown’s business district and certainly would hurt efforts to attract retailers inside the city. For the time and money the city has spent on annexation, taking the poison pill of accepting less in a partial annexation is certainly an olive branch from the city.

Annexation is an issue that makes many people’s blood boil. It doesn’t have to be that way, at least not until March 29. A good first step would be taking Borrello up on his mediation offer with clear, cool heads.

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