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Sheriff’s Office, City Police Should Restart Merger Talks

Last year, Sheriff Jim Quattrone told The Post-Journal he would only reopen discussions to consolidate the Jamestown Police Department with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office if the city approached the Sheriff’s Office to restart talks.

City officials should do so.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on merger reports and meetings over the past eight years. While it is a shame to see that money wasted on studies that have gone nowhere, the big reason to proceed is the same as it was in 2012 — Jamestown needs to find a way to save money. The city is still butting up against the state’s constitutional taxation limit and now has to deal with the lingering after-effects of COVID-19.

The consolidation plan, at least the last time it was seriously discussed publicly, could save as much as $1.4 million a year, though the savings would be phased in and the full amount not realized until the transition was complete. Rather than a merger that resulted in one department being eliminated, the city would contract with the county, and as Jamestown officers retired the city would add to its contract with the city.

Talks broke off a couple of years ago when the sides simply couldn’t come together on a structure that made everyone happy.

A lot has changed since then, however. Jamestown has a new mayor and will have a new police chief. Chautauqua County has a new sheriff and a new county executive. Faces have changed in the legislative branches of government.

New faces don’t mean a contract between the two entities is guaranteed to happen immediately. But we know that worthwhile change — such as selling the Chautauqua County Home, regionalizing Jamestown Community College chargebacks and ending health care for Chautauqua County legislators – only comes from perseverance. And it’s worth noting that Sheriff Jim Quattrone was able to mend fences to the point that the Southern Tier Drug Task Force and Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force are again working together.

We can already hear the arguments from rural legislators who hate the idea of “bailing Jamestown out.” That argument is hogwash and they should, by now, know that. Jamestown can’t lower its tax burden without thinking outside the box, which means it has to find a willing partner to help with cost-saving measures. Chautauqua County needs a strong Jamestown and a strong Dunkirk to provide jobs and stable housing in the county’s two biggest population centers, and Jamestown isn’t as attractive as it should be because of its high tax burden. It benefits the rural areas for Jamestown to be strong enough to attract jobs-providing development to its long-vacant industrial areas or to create the environment for existing businesses to expand. Helping Jamestown strengthens the rural areas that still rely on Jamestown to provide large-scale employment.

Talks need to continue, and those talks need to translate into action.

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