|JAIL SPACE CRUNCH IS HIGH PRIORITY IN 2002
Board Chair Tim Joseph announced that the County will follow multiple
paths in solving the crowding problems at the County jail. The legal capacity
of 72 inmates has been increased in recent years to a maximum of 103, through
temporary variances from the New York State Commission of Corrections.
The variances expire on March 19. Joseph said he, Sheriff Peter Meskill,
County Administrator Stephen Whicher, and several County Board members
will go to Albany to request and defend a two-year extension of the variances.
They will point out that the County has launched an Alternatives to Incarceration
program it hopes will reduce jail population, and at the same time, will
study how it can expand the jail, if needed. Joseph is reviving the Public
Safety Building Space Needs Committee that has studied the space limitations
at the building. Joseph will chair the committee, which was disbanded last
year after a consultant suggested an expansion project that was prohibitively
expensive. The committee will work with the Commission of Corrections on
a redesign. Joseph said he hopes the state will give the County two more
years to test the effectiveness of its alternatives program and to work
out a more affordable plan for the jail building. Contact: Board of Representatives
Chair Tim Joseph, 274-5434, 277-2519.
COUNTY BUDGET GAINS $885K IN SALES TAX
Although the total 2001 sales tax revenue for Tompkins County was slightly
down from the previous year, it is higher than was estimated and has added
almost $900,000 of unallocated funds to County government’s budget. County
Finance Director David Squires reported that the total tax revenue for
2001 is $38,021,749, one-third of a percent (0.33%) less than reported
in 2000. County government’s share, $21,385,379, is $885,379 more than
the $20,500,000 that was anticipated in the 2001 budget. Squires warned
that the returns are subject to later adjustment by the state and do not
necessarily reflect business activity. Sales tax is collected and sent
to New York State, which calculates and returns revenues to local governments.
In Tompkins County, the sales tax revenues are divided among County, City
of Ithaca, and the town and village governments. Squires also reported
that the County retained $1.7 million in unspent salary lines in 2001,
an indicator of the success of the County’s hiring freeze, instituted early
last year. Contact: David Squires, Finance Director, 274-5545.
SHURTLEFF WILL BE NEW DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY RESPONSE
The Board agreed unanimously to fill one position and create another
to support emergency communications and response in Tompkins County. Lee
Shurtleff, who has served as Deputy Fire, Disaster and Emergency Medical
Services Coordinator since 1997, was named Director of the Department of
Emergency Response. Duties of the new position include being highly involved
in planning and oversight of the proposed upgrade to the County’s Public
Safety Communication System. The Board also approved the position of Director
of Dispatch Center, to manage and oversee operations of the County’s new
dispatch center, which is in the planning stages. Contacts: Steve Whicher,
County Administrator, 274-5551; Lee Shurtleff, 257-3888.
PROTECT FARMLAND, ADVISES CONSULTANT
Consultants Tom Daniels and George Frantz recommended that the County
create a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program to protect farmland
in Tompkins County. With a PDR program in place, the County would purchase
development rights from willing private land owners, who would retain all
rights of land ownership but agree not to develop their land for any use
other than farming. Daniels reported that in the last 20 years, 21 percent
of all farmland in the county was converted to non-farm uses. A long-term
PDR program, estimated by consultants to cost $9 - $15 million over 20
to 30 years, could purchase development rights for up to 21,000 acres of
high-quality farmland in the county. Proponents of the program say it would
help protect Tompkins County’s agricultural businesses by providing an
economic incentive, while preserving the rural character and beauty of
the area. State and federal funding for development rights purchases may
be available, the consultants advised. Contact: Joan Jurkewich, Tompkins
County Planning Department, 274-5566.
TOMPKINS’ SMALL CITIES GRANTS TOTAL $10 MILLION IN TEN YEARS
The Tompkins County Planning Department is looking for public input
on projects the County should apply for under the 2002 Community Development
Block Grant Small Cities Program. At a preliminary hearing, consultant
Dave Carlson reported on general housing, public facilities, and micro-enterprise
needs in the County. A second hearing will be held on February 19 for public
comment on the specific grant application. Since 1991, the County has received
Community Development Block Grant for housing rehabilitation, subsidies
for first-time homeowners, and low-interest loans to businesses. The total
over ten years is $10,730,000. Contact: Katie Borgella, Tompkins County
Planning Department, 274-5566.
NEW COMMITTEE WILL ADDRESS TECHNOLOGY
Board Chair Tim Joseph reported that he has formed a new standing committee
of the Board of Representatives. The ITS Policy Committee, chaired by Rep.
Daniel Winch, will work with the County’s Information Technology Services
Department in setting policy for electronic communication and technology
services, support, and networking. Contact: Board of Representatives Chair
Tim Joseph, 274-5434, 277-2519.
MINK TO CONTINUE AS CHAIR OF IDA
The Board approved, by unanimous vote, appointments of Reps. Tim Joseph,
Peter Penniman, and George Totman to the board of the Industrial Development
Agency (IDA). Rep. Kathy Luz Herrera was appointed to the IDA board as
an at-large member. Barbara Mink, previously appointed as an at-large member,
will continue to chair the IDA board. The IDA offers economic incentives
to local businesses and industries to help create and retain job opportunities
and strengthen the tax base. Contact: Board of Representatives Chair Tim
Joseph, 274-5434, 277-2519.
Board of Representatives