EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a 14-story series on issues that will be facing local communities in 2014.
The possible merger of the Chautauqua County Sheriff's and Jamestown Police departments will continue to move forward in 2014.
An inter-municipal agreement between Chautauqua County and Jamestown officials appears to be the next step in the possible merger of the police departments. Len Faulk, co-chairman of the administration committee looking into a possible merger, said the draft of the inter-municipal agreement will be prepared for review for those involved in the process in January.
There are three committees made up of city and county officials, along with other community residents including members of both police forces. One committee deals with administration, the second with collective barging units and the third with departmental issues.
''At this stage, the draft municipal agreement can be written up and for the committees to review in January. From that point, they will take a look at it, have input and revise where necessary,'' he said. ''Once it is in form, it will be shared with members of the (Chautauqua County) Legislature and City Council for review. Then they will vote on the inter-municipal agreement.''
Faulk said there are a lot of different facets left to be examined for more details. Faulk said the inter-municipal agreement will be available for public input and review prior to both the County Legislature and City Council voting on the document.
Faulk said the inter-municipal agreement will deal with services the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department could potentially handle for Jamestown.
''Basically what will happen is Jamestown will still have a police department, but they are going to and this is all proposed negotiate with the county an agreement that would state what services the city would want the county to provide, and outline the phase in process,'' he said. ''The agreement will be what specific services the city will contract with the county to provide. There are several services. It is just not patrol, but also courts and school safety officers. There is a whole range of services that need to be looked at and then it will be determined what will be in the contract.''
The potential for the county to handle more police services in Jamestown comes from the research done by the Center For Governmental Research. Last December, the center released a report detailing options for merging the two departments. According to the report ''Modeling Options for a Consolidated Law Enforcement Agency,''a merger is possible with no increased costs to the county and savings for the city. The consolidation study lays out options for organizational consolidation models, how to implement those models and cost estimates.
The consolidation report suggests several options for consolidating, which it classifies as ranging from ''less aggressive to more aggressive.''
''The least aggressive option is functional shared services. This involves looking within each operation and determining if certain services could be provided by one or the other entity and then entering into agreement to make it happen, while still retaining two separate agencies,'' the report says.
''The most aggressive option of a full consolidation that would result in all functions being combined under the leadership of one agency or department.''
The consolidation report suggests that either a shared services agreement or a local merger would be most feasible. In the case of a shared services agreement between the Jamestown Police Department and Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, the two entities would remain separate, but pursue consolidation of common back-office or support functions. The local merger would combine the two into a single law enforcement agency.
''They have recommended a phase-in model,'' Faulk said about the center's report. ''That essentially suggests the Sheriff's Department would be the lead agency and the city would contract with them to provide services. This would be a contract with gradual attrition which would be phased in as members of the Jamestown Police Department retire. Then the replacements would be county sheriff's deputies. Then over 20 to 30 years, you would have all police being county deputies.''
The report stated a savings of up to $7 million during five years could be recognized if the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office merged with the Jamestown Police Department. To view the report, go to www.cgr.org/jamestown/docs/Baseline-and-Prelim-Options-11-9-2012.pdf.
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said he is not centrally involved in the consolidation process, but is connected with the ongoing discussions. He said the very detailed and lengthy process is complicated.
''They are dealing with multiple unions or collective barging groups with different contracts. Each bargaining group has a different retirement system. So this is a monumental undertaking,'' he said.
Joseph Gerace, Chautauqua County sheriff, said he agrees the process is complicated, with several issues to overcome to make a possible merger happen.
''There is still a lot to be resolved,'' he said.