|BOARD GETS NEW NAME, CHARTER IS APPROVED
By a 10 – 3 vote, the Board of Representatives changed its name to
the Tompkins County Legislature and approved the adoption of a revised
County Charter. Other Charter changes include a provision for holding special
elections to fill vacancies in the legislature, renaming two County departments,
and defining the advisory role of the Environmental Management Council.
As chair of the Charter Review Committee, Michael Lane oversaw the 14-month
process of revising the Charter, a task which must be done every ten years.
Thomas Todd, Daniel Winch, and Frank Proto voted against the Charter changes.
Dooley Kiefer and Barbara Blanchard had left the meeting. Contact: Michael
Lane, Chair, Charter Review Committee, 844-8440.
PHILIP MORRIS FINANCIAL WOES MAY AFFECT COUNTY REVENUE
County Finance Director David Squires commented that if Phillip Morris,
the tobacco giant most responsible for making tobacco settlement payments,
suffers a financial failure as a result of another punitive lawsuit, Tompkins
could see loss of or delay in its annual tobacco payments. The County is
due to receive a payment of $550,000 in two weeks and anticipates a total
of about $825,000 for the year. Contact: David Squires, 274-5545.
APPROVAL OF JAIL DESIGN STUDY IS POSTPONED
A resolution that would have approved $90,000 for design work on the
Tompkins County jail was postponed when the measure failed to gain enough
votes in committee. Legislators agreed that a delay beyond their next meeting
is inadvisable. The state Commission of Corrections has extended until
June the variances that allow the jail to house more inmates than it was
built for, but the Commission has been firm with the County in stating
it must make progress toward expansion. The scope of work for the design
consultant will be discussed again at a Public Safety Committee meeting
Thursday, and the matter will return to the Legislature for approval at
its April 15 meeting. Contact: Barbara Blanchard, Chair, Public Safety
COUNTY ASKS THAT 8 PERCENT SALES TAX BE CONTINUED
Consumers in Tompkins County have paid 8 percent sales tax since 1992
when the state allowed the County Legislature to raise it from 7 percent.
Permission to charge the additional 1 percent expires in November and the
County has asked to have it extended another two years, to November 2005.
Bills have been filed in the state assembly and senate requesting the extension.
The sales tax revenue collected by the County is shared with the City of
Ithaca and the towns and villages. Nancy Schuler and Frank Proto voted
against the resolution. Contact: Peter Penniman, Chair, Budget and Capital
Committee, 387-3928, 387-5987.
LEGISLATURE RESTORES SOME FUNDING TO SPCA
In the 2003 County budget, funding to the Tompkins County SPCA was
cut from $40,000 to $16,000. With dissent only from Thomas Todd, the Legislature
agreed to boost the annual contract to $36,000 and to incorporate additional
rabies control services. The additional funding is a combination of contingent
funds, a Health Department contribution, and a small amount of state aid.
Both Health Department and SPCA officials have argued that the loss of
the SPCA’s services would increase the likelihood of rabies in cats and
the need for post-exposure treatment for humans. Contact: Martha Robertson,
Chair, Health & Human Service Committee; 272-0584.
BOARD WRANGLES OVER WAR STATEMENTS, AGREES ON SUPPORT OF TROOPS
Michael Koplinka-Loehr (D-Town of Ithaca) announced that he will extend
the fast he began March 19 as a protest against the war in Iraq until the
evening of April 2. He will then switch to a diet similar to that eaten
by impoverished Iraqis, he said, and he also plans to leave his employment
at Cornell University to put more time into action for changes at the state
and federal levels of government. Following Koplinka-Loehr’s comments,
Daniel Winch read a statement signed by the Legislature’s four Republican
members disapproving of debate or expression of opinions on the war in
the legislative chambers. Unanimity was achieved later in the meeting when
all the legislators agreed to support a resolution put forward by Peter
Penniman. The full text of the resolution is: “Resolved, that the Tompkins
County Legislature supports our men and women in the armed forces; we thank
them for their service and hope for their safe and swift return home.”
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