Highlights of the December 18, 2001 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
The final Board meeting of the year, and of the four-year term that ends December 31, was marked by farewells to three members: Barbara Mink, Stuart Stein, and Joe Lalley. Mink and Stein are retiring from the Board. Lalley failed to win re-election. Mink has been a Board member since 1990 and Chair since 1997. She lauded her colleagues for the reasoned manner in which decisions have been made during her tenure: “The effort to explain our positions, to make a case based both on data and belief, and then to patiently and systematically pursue it, has characterized most of what we’ve done together, and the community is better off for it,” said Mink. Mink teaches at Cornell University, is a communications consultant, and an artist. Stein is a five-term County legislator who was also Board chair, serving in the top spot from 1994 through 1996. He has said he will remain involved in County affairs, particularly in areas of tourism development and economic planning. Contacts: Barbara Mink, 274-5434, 273-7847; Stuart Stein, 273-3500.

By a vote of 9-5-1 (Representatives Blanchard, Joseph, Kiefer, Lalley, and Stein opposing and Representative Proto was excused), the Board reaffirmed an earlier decision to eliminate the local portion of sales tax on clothing and shoes for purchases up to $110. The exemption, first approved by a 9-6 vote of the Board in September of last year, will go into effect on March 1, 2002. New York State dropped its portion of the tax on the designated items in 1999. Board discussion focused on the changing fiscal picture and the wisdom of giving up an estimated $700,000 in annual revenue, versus taxpayer expectations and an incentive for shopping inside the county. Sales tax in Tompkins County is 8 cents on the dollar, with half the revenue going to New York State and half divided among local communities. In a related issue, Finance Director David Squires told the Board that sales tax income for 2001 continues to meet the County’s budget expectations. Contacts: Tim Joseph, Chair, Budget Committee, 277-2519: Rep. Michael Lane, 844-8440.

The Board agreed unanimously to move the County’s Office of Records Management to the Old Library on North Cayuga Street, and to formally announce its intention retain the building. The records office is one of the last two County functions to remain in the Biggs A Building, which was sold to a private developer earlier this month. The new owner of Biggs A, Transamerican Engineering Corporation, is leasing space to the County records office at a cost of almost $10,000 a month. The County has exercised its right to break that lease within 90 days, and plans to move the records office by March 15, 2002. The County will use $250,000 gained from the sale of Biggs A to pay for improvements in the Old Library, and moving and other costs. The main floor and mezzanine of the former library, where the records will be stored, have been vacant for almost a year. Long-range plans for the building include converting the library onto an archive center where residents and visitors could research genealogy and other historic records. Contacts: Stuart Stein, Chair, Economic and Workforce Development Committee, 273-3500; Kathryn Smithers, Deputy County Administrator, 274-5551.

The Board approved 13-1 (Representative Winch opposed and Representative Proto was excused), the establishment of a County poet laureate. Departing Board member Stuart Stein came up with the idea of honoring a local poet, who will be encouraged to write poems for public occasions and foster the appreciation of poetry. The first poet laureate will serve for two years; subsequent laureates will be appointed for one year. The honorary position is unpaid. Contact: Stuart Stein, 273-3500.

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