Phase two of a potential merger between the Jamestown Police Department and Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office is moving forward.
In 2008, the city and county began considering a potential law enforcement agency merger, which would involve consolidation of the Jamestown Police Department and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office. As a part of the consideration, the city and county engaged the State Division of Criminal Justice Services to analyze and report on the potential viability of a consolidation.
A year later, the Division of Criminal Justice Services issued a report that said merging the Jamestown Police Department and sheriff's office was possible, and that the two entities should take the next steps to develop cost estimates and discuss challenges that might be presented if the merger were to take place.
Recently, the Jamestown City Council approved engaging the Center for Governmental Research for the second phase of a project involving the potential consolidation of the Jamestown Police Department with the Sheriff's Office.
If a merger ultimately occurs, it will be the first city police - county sheriff merger in New York state.
A task force - consisting of city officials, council members, staff, county administrative staff, police and sheriff staff, as well as members of the county legislature - has been working with CGR to build a potential model for about a year, according to Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi. Prior to working with CGR, the city and county had been discussing the merger idea for several years.
"The state awarded us a $400,000 grant through the local government efficiency program that is operated by the Department of State," Teresi said. "The $400,000 grant was to assist the city and the county - it was jointly awarded to the city and the county with the city as the lead on the grant process, the county as the co-applicant - through the study process and help to hire the consultant and the facilitator."
Additionally, Teresi said funding is intended to help cover the costs of a merger, should it happen.
According to Teresi and County Executive Greg Edwards, the first phase was a general conversation, while the second stage will be more involved.
"I think the second phase will have a more focused discussion on the specific issues that need to be addressed working toward a variety of proposals that people can consider," Edwards said. "Right now, it has been more of a general discussion that has been very productive. It brought people to the table to talk about the various opportunities and challenges."
"Putting the meat to the bones, putting the detail to the approach that was developed in phase one, is now the work that is being completed in phase two of the planning process," Teresi said. "At this point in time, while we're at the middle point of the game, it's still too early in the game for either the county executive or I, or the county legislature or the city council, to be either endorsing or rejecting anything, because it is still in the process of being defined and built."
Edwards and Teresi emphasized the potential merger is still in the developmental stages, and remind residents to remain patient while the process develops.
"We've had good progress up to this point in time. We are very pleased with the way things are going along," Teresi said. "There is good dialog, but we're still in the developmental stages. It's still too early to tell whether there's something there yet or not for the city and the county to embrace."
"Mayor Teresi and I have been working very well together and are very much in agreement with this process," Edwards said. "I think that's a very important message. This is a situation where everybody involved recognizes its value."