JAMESTOWN – A majority of Jamestown City Council members are responding to criticism of their vote that rejected the new Jamestown Fire Department Union Contract.
Council President Tony Dolce, along with councilmembers Brent Sheldon, Kimberly Ecklund, Jeffrey Russell, Marie Carrubba, Randall Daversa, and Andrew Faulkner issued a statement on Friday calling Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s written response earlier in the week “inflammatory rhetoric” that “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“The Mayor’s press release, immediately following the January 31, 2022 voting session, stated that voting down the firefighters’ contract was a choice “not to invest in public safety . . . life-saving medical care” and “to defund our firefighters.” This is inflammatory rhetoric and couldn’t be further from the truth,” the lawmakers wrote. “As the elected legislative body for the City of Jamestown, we believe it is our duty to present the facts and set the record straight.”
The councilmembers say at the same voting session, the they approved a personnel agreement with the police union, invested almost $234,000 in equipment for police and firefighters, $100,000 for a new roof on Fire Station four, and $153,259 for a bombardier sidewalk plow to clear the sidewalks for children walking to and from school.
They also cite that, on December 27, 2021, the Council approved funding for the purchase of four additional police cars, when the Mayor’s executive budget included only one car. The prior administration and City Council approved the bonding of approximately $2.5 million to purchase two new fire trucks, that are currently in use and the refurbishment of another to extend its useful life.
“We value and recognize the officers and firefighters who serve our community but as Councilmembers we must also deal with the harsh realities of the city’s budget,” they contintued. “The terms of the firefighters’ personnel agreement were negotiated and consented to by the Mayor’s team, and signed by the Mayor prior to any Council review.”
They say, if that were to be approved, the financial cost to the city, through the year 2024, would exceed $2.1 million for the salary increases, benefits, and hiring of four additional firefighters.
“The savings from removing lifetime healthcare benefits for ONLY the new hires, based on actuary reporting, would be $8.8 million dollars BUT not until the year 2061,” furthered the group. “In doing our due diligence, the terms of the tentative agreement were deemed untenable and financially unsustainable when coupled with the news that the Governor’s budget for 2022 did not include the $1 million request for Jamestown.”
The current city budget is now underfunded by $1 million, and by 2024 the council says there will be a budget deficit of over $3 million if the firefighters’ personnel agreement was approved by the council.
“We also understand that changes are needed in the provision of EMS services, however, the city’s current finances cannot support what has been proposed in the agreement and would unduly burden city taxpayers; alternative opportunities need to be explored,” the councilmembers concluded. “It is our greatest hope that the union and administration can resume negotiations and reach an agreement that is financially sustainable for all concerned, including city taxpayers, and one that the City Council can support.”
Officials cited a EMS service proposal which outlined alternative options for service.
Carrubba was the only Democrat to agree with the Republican majority in calling out the mayor. Councilwoman Regina Brackman is the remaining member who did not issue a response.