An Answer To Falconer’s Question: ‘Where’s Jamestown?’
Recently the Mayor of Falconer, understandably frustrated by a few troubled people Chautauqua County is housing at an old motel in Falconer, asked “Where’s Jamestown” in all of this.
The simple answer is the City of Jamestown already bears a disproportionate burden by hosting virtually every effort to help troubled people living throughout Southern Chautauqua County.
Recently the newspaper reported that Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. recently acquired a commercial building on Lafayette Street in downtown Jamestown (across from the Ice Arena and a block from the National Comedy Center) to house 30 single women.
What many still call the “Rescue Mission” (and now part of the UCAN ministry) on First Street in downtown Jamestown has housed homeless men for generations.
UPMC Chautauqua, entirely in the City of Jamestown, houses people needing both short-term and long-term mental health treatment.
UPMC Chautauqua, entirely in the City of Jamestown, houses people needing both short-term and long-term drug addiction treatment.
The Chautauqua County Department of Health, on the top floor of Jamestown’s City Hall, is the one place troubled people living throughout Southern Chautauqua County (including Falconer) go for the County’s services for mental health, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse counseling and treatment.
All of these troubled people living throughout the area are routinely invited by Chautauqua County government to travel from wherever they live to downtown Jamestown for help.
The Salvation Army’s shelter for battered or threatened women and their children has always been in the City of Jamestown. The Salvation Army’s attempt to create a shelter for women in a former home for the elderly on Fairmount Avenue in West Ellicott was summarily rebuffed by the Town of Ellicott (home of the Village of Falconer).
The YWCA in downtown Jamestown has long provided temporary, transitional housing for troubled women from anywhere in Chautauqua County. The YWCA website states the program is for “women and children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.” The YWCA states this “is the single communal supportive housing program in Chautauqua County.” The Y can house 14 adult women and their children.
St. Susan Center (soup kitchen) in the former Chautauqua Hardware factory in the once industrial heart of Jamestown, has been a gathering place for hundreds of homeless people, people with mental health or drug abuse issues, or people just needing a free meal for decades.
The Mental Health Association (MHA) located next to the St. Susan Center tries to help people living throughout the area, including Falconer, with mental health issues and/or drug abuse issues.
Every entity described above has at least one thing in common. While they serve people who come from all over Chautauqua County, they are tax exempt and pay no property taxes to support City services including Jamestown police and a paid Jamestown fire department.
Jamestown City Drug Court participants live all over Chautauqua County, including Falconer. Each of the participants has plead guilty to a crime and have agreed to try to become clean and sober, productive citizens.
Although Drug Court participants come from all over the area, every mental health and/or drug addiction service that people are directed to is in the City of Jamestown. Our neighbors do not share the burden of hosting these services.
The Drug Court may send the drug addict or mentally ill person to the County Health Department in Jamestown City Hall, or to the Resource Center in the City of Jamestown, or the MHA in the City of Jamestown or to UPMC in the City of Jamestown.
Where’s Jamestown? It is the good next door neighbor to the Village of Falconer. The Village of Falconer benefits from cheap Jamestown electric, safe and abundant Jamestown water, and even from the Jamestown sewer system and top-notch sewage treatment plant.
Where’s Jamestown? It is the host to the only hospital in Southern Chautauqua County. Both the UPMC campus on Foote Avenue and the huge UPMC campus on Jones Hill are totally tax exempt, paying nothing to support its host city. A Falconer resident, for example, suffering a stroke, heart attack or traumatic injury is brought into the City of Jamestown for care.
Where’s Jamestown? It is Falconer’s next door neighbor that sponsored Jamestown Community College 73 years ago in 1950 because the old undemocratic, unrepresentative County Board of Supervisors saw no reason to sponsor a community college in Chautauqua County. The massive JCC campus in the City of Jamestown is exempt from City taxes. A good bet would be over 1,000 Falconer residents attended JCC over the past 73 years.
Where’s Jamestown? It is a struggling, small city of 28,000 (down from 42,000 in 1960) full of tax-exempt property benefitting more people who live outside the City than those who live here. Because Jamestown already bears a disproportionate burden of caring for all kinds of social problems, Jamestown homeowners pay higher property taxes than their neighbors outside the City limits.
Large numbers of people in Falconer, Celoron, Ellicott, Lakewood, Busti, Frewsburg, Carroll, Kennedy, Poland and Gerry, for example, who are in trouble come into Jamestown routinely for services.
The idea that people who need services in Jamestown ought to live in Jamestown, and spare its neighbors in the area from troubled people, is not just and equitable.
Fred Larson is a retired Jamestown City Court Judge and served as Chautauqua County Attorney from 1998-2005.