Highlights from the December 19, 2000 meeting of the

Tompkins County Board of Representatives


Rep. Charles Evans will resign from the Board of Representatives as of December 31. The Dryden Republican was first elected to the Board in 1990 and chaired several committees, including Health and Environmental Quality, and Government Operations. As chair of the Electronic Futures Committee, Evans was an early proponent of computer networking for County offices and has continued to guide the County in information management and technology issues. Evans’ voting record frequently showed him to be a non-partisan Board member who relied less on party politics and more on his personal judgment. His third four-year term on the Board would have ended in 2001. The seat Evans leaves vacant will be filled for one year by an appointee chosen by the Dryden Town Board.


The Board approved (14-1; Rep. Dooley Kiefer voted no) a ten-year contract with Recycle America to operate the County’s Recycling and Solid Waste Center. Recycle America is a company of Waste Management, Inc., headquartered in Chicago. The operating contract with the current operator, CRInc, which was purchased by Waste Management four years ago, expires at the end of this month. Recycle America will pay for a $500,000 improvement to the paper processing line at the Center, allowing more high-value paper to be recycled and sold on the open market. The new operator will also recycle computer equipment and peripherals, fax machines, and telephones. Revenue from recyclables will be shared at a rate of 30 percent to the operator of the Center and 70 percent to the County Solid Waste Division, providing an increased incentive to the operator to earn revenue. Solid Waste Manager Barbara Eckstrom said she expects the new arrangement to save the County about $100,000 a year.


Rep. Stuart Stein, who has suggested an increase in the County tax on hotel, motel, inn, and Bed & Breakfast rooms, withdrew a resolution that would have upped the tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. Stein reported that a group of hoteliers and B&B operators visited the Economic and Workforce Development Committee today and raised a number of objections to an increase in the tax. The room occupancy tax, instituted in 1986, raised $558,492 in 1999 and is expected to have raised about $600,000 in 2000. About three-quarters of the room tax revenue is used to support the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Other items funded with room tax money include local tourism development grants, the Community Arts Partnership, and special projects such as a new Downtown Visitors Center at the Clinton House. Stein said the committee will work on revising the proposal and may bring it forward in January. Any increase in the room tax will need approval by the state legislature.


The Board agreed to secure an option to buy 18 acres of land fronting on Hanshaw Road in the Town of Dryden as a potential site for a New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) highway maintenance facility. NYSDOT has agreed to leave its current site on waterfront property in the City of Ithaca that has been earmarked for development.


After lengthy discussion, the Board agreed by a 13-2 vote (Reps. Frank Proto and Thomas Todd voted no) to add 26 full-time and 5 part-time positions to the County job roster. Funding for the positions comes from a variety of sources, including state and federal grants or reimbursements, as well as increases already approved in the 2001 County budget. Although all of the positions will be created as of January 1, 2001, recruitment and hiring will delay the actual start of many of the jobs.

Among the new positions are: two administrative workers and two security officers for the new Community Justice Center; an additional deputy clerk at the Board of Representatives office; a deputy commissioner and two psychiatric social workers at the Mental Health Department; two community health nurses at the Health Department; a deputy sheriff and a sergeant at the Sheriff’s Office; and two caseworkers and two receptionists at the Department of Social Services. In a separate resolution, the Board approved the creation of two additional positions – a deputy sheriff and an administrative assistant – to handle Sheriff’s Office duties covered by emergency dispatchers that will soon be transferred to a consolidated dispatch center.

Many of the legislators expressed concern about the County’s ability to maintain the new positions in the long term. Budget Committee Chair Tim Joseph warned that a shortfall in surplus funds in 2001 could cause funding cuts in the following year.