Highlights from the October 3 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS KEEPING OLD LIBRARY BUILDING
A County committee has determined that, for the time being, Tompkins County should retain ownership of the Old Library building and property, located at 312 North Cayuga Street in Ithaca. At Tuesday’s Board of Representatives meeting, Michael Lane, Chair of the Old Library/New Futures Committee – recently renamed the Facilities and Space Committee – issued the group’s final report.
The committee’s recommendation is that the County keep the Old Library property for County use, and that a subsequent committee be charged with looking at all of the County’s space needs. Lane’s committee spent two years examining the possibilities for the building’s future, including analyzing its potential uses and offering it for sale. Over the two years since the committee first convened, it has become apparent that several County offices and departments need more space.
The New York State Unified Courts System has requested additional space, which Tompkins County is obliged to provide, in the County Courthouse. Court expansion will displace the Office for the Aging, an agency that needs better public access. Court expansion may also force out the Board of Representatives chambers. Beyond the courthouse, new space will likely be needed for Alternatives to Incarceration programs, such as a multi-service day reporting center. Other departments, some in leased or inappropriate locations, may also need new homes.
The report by Lane’s committee shows that renovating the Old Library to usable office space is cheaper than new construction, on the same site or elsewhere. Using a 20-year projection, the committee found that it would cost about $5.8 million to keep the library and eliminate the cost of leasing outside office space. A new building on the same site would cost around $7.5 million; a new building on a different downtown site could cost as much as $8.9 million.
The report does not recommend specific uses for the Old Library. The Board of Representatives will be asked to accept the committee recommendation at its next meeting.
Board Chair Barbara Mink has already announced plans to appoint a committee to look at all of the County’s current and future space problems. She emphasized that options for the use or disposition of the Old Library are still open. The building will be vacated in November, when the public library moves to its new facility at Green and Cayuga streets.
COUNTY WILL BACK COOPERATIVE EXTENSION BUILDING PURCHASE
The Board unanimously (14-0; Daniel Winch was absent) approved an appropriation of $180,000 to allow Cornell Cooperative Extension to purchase the former AAA building at 303 West Lincoln Street, owned by the Automobile Club of Syracuse. Cooperative Extension plans to expand its offices into the next-door building. The organization will repay the money over five years.
STATE TO PAY HALF OF WASTE DEPOT CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATING COSTS
The Board unanimously (14-0; Daniel Winch was absent) approved acceptance of a grant for $601,715 from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to pay half the County’s cost for constructing and operating its Household Hazardous Waste Management Facility. About $475,000 of the grant will pay for building the facility, also known the D.E.P.O.T. ("Don’t Empty Pollutants in Our Trash"), and about $125,000 will go toward the first year’s operating costs. The grant is flexible and will pay actual 50 percent costs of the facility, even if they are higher than current estimates. The facility is due to open late this fall. It will accept hazardous materials commonly found around the house or used by small businesses. To make an appointment to drop off materials, call 273-4496.
REVITALIZATION GRANTS SUPPORT TOWN AND VILLAGE PROJECTS
The Board approved a total of $10,850 in Commercial Center Revitalization grants. The competitive grants provide matching funds of up to $7,500 for building façade and public space renovation in local communities. The deadline for the next round of grants is October 27. Grants were issued to:
Town of Caroline, $7,500 for restoration of town hall windows
Town of Lansing, $2,000 for development of a strategic plan
Village of Groton, $1,350, for replacement of a sidewalk
ENERGY ALLIANCE TO BUY NATURAL GAS FROM NYSEG SOLUTIONS
The Tompkins-Tioga Electric and Gas Alliance has made a deal to purchase natural gas from NYSEG Solutions for its non-residential customers. The Board unanimously approved the one-year renewable contract, which consultants predict will result in a 9 percent savings for municipal and commercial members of the energy buying alliance.
HUD GRANT PAYS FOR COUNTY HOMEOWNERSHIP PROGRAM
The Board unanimously (14-0; Daniel Winch was absent) accepted a $600,000 Small Cities Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant, administered by New York State, will support the County’s homeownership and home repair program.