MAYVILLE - Though ultimately passed by the County Legislature, two resolutions saw some opposition Wednesday night from lawmakers.
Resolutions to allow Jamestown Community College and CARTS to seek federal grant money were passed in an 16-8 vote and 18-6 vote, respectively.
Neither proposal was voted strictly along party lines by the legislature, with the JCC proposal seeing opposition from Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Bob Scudder, D-Fredonia, and Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown. The CARTS grant request similarly saw opposition from Ahlstrom, Duff, Heenan and Runkle as well as John Gullo, D-Fredonia, and Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown.
Legislator Jay Gould, R-Ashville, was absent from the meeting.
Both proposals faced criticism and questions in committee last week and, in the case of the JCC request, was further questioned on the floor of the legislature Wednesday night.
The Department of Public Facilities is able to apply for federal funding each year for CARTS. According to George Spanos, Department of Public Facilities director, the resolution authorizes the department to apply for nine new buses as well as software for the department.
Comments from Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, on the JCC proposal:
I don't want my comments to be construed as against anything that Jamestown Community College does, because I think they're a fine organization. However, I feel that I owe it to my constituents to do my homework and to look into every expenditure and report what I find.
Anyways, as part of this project, JCC intends to purchase an adjoining farm consisting of 127 acres north of the JCC campus and east of the 100 acre park.
President DeCinque appeared before the Public Facilities Committee to explain this land purchase and its future uses. President DeCinque is a man that I respect and I believe that through his guidance, JCC has become one of the premiere community colleges in New York state.
However, I must disagree with his assessment of this property and acquisition and the value of the land in question. President DeCinque explained that this land purchase was to be in the neighborhood of $400,000 - which figures to be $3,150 per acre. I felt that this was somewhat high, but Mr. DeCinque told us that the land had been appraised and that that was the value arrived at by the appraiser.
I checked into the property in question and found that the assessment on this property is $159,000.
I spoke with Randy Holcomb, town of Ellicott assessor, and asked how accurate he felt the assessment was. Mr. Holcomb feels that his assessment is very accurate, but has seen properties in Ellicott sell for slightly higher than the assessment. But he felt that $175,000 was the absolute high-end of the property's value.
Mr. Holcomb said that when appraising a property, he finds that oftentimes the appraiser will place the value for potential use rather than assessing the property for what it is - which results in inflated appraisals.
In reality, large tracks of farmland such as this are very difficult to sell at this time. And if not for the interest from JCC, I find it difficult to believe that the owner would realize more than $125,000 from the sale.
I also realize that the secret in real estate is location, location, location and there is no other land that would fit the needs of JCC as this parcel would. That being said, I wonder if, for this reason, JCC might be offering more than they should or the owner might be asking more than he should.
In fairness to county taxpayers who are paying for this land, I would suggest that JCC officials look closer at this land acquisition and negotiate a price closer to the property's fair market value and assessment. We should be saving the taxpayers money wherever we can and by negotiating a fairer price, perhaps JCC could give the county's 25 percent share of the difference back to the capital fund. We could then use this money for other needed capital repairs in the county such as road repairs and JCC could use their shares for other projects as well.
I also question the need for these renovations at this time. We are facing a severe budget crisis in Chautauqua County and although these renovations would be nice to have and should be addressed in the near future, it is not imperative that they be accomplished in the next year. We are facing major road damage costs this spring due to the harsh winter weather and perhaps this $300,000 that we are proposing for these renovations could be better spent for road repairs in this upcoming season.
The JCC resolution authorizes the college to apply for funding to acquire land neighboring its Jamestown campus. In addition to purchasing land at the end of James Street, the funding would also cover a number of renovations.