LEGISLATURE CHAIR PROTESTS FIREARM TRAINING FOR UNARMED PROBATION OFFICERS
Probation officers in New York State – who fall into the category of “peace
officer” along with police, corrections officers, and even SPCA officers
– are required to have firearm training, but in Tompkins and several other
counties, probation officers don’t carry guns. “This is a truly outrageous
state mandate that serves no purpose,” said Legislature Chair Tim Joseph.
The County recently received notice that 47 hours of firearm training is
required for all hires since November 1991, which means ten County probation
officers must comply. Whether or not to arm probation officers is a county-level
decision, according to Probation Director Kathryn Leinthall. “Our officers
don’t carry guns, but I see no alternative to going through with the training,”
said Leinthall earlier today. The firearm training requires the discharge
of 1,000 rounds of ammunition and is a “grueling experience,” said Leinthall.
The Probation Department will also be required to purchase five firearms
for the training. At this point, Leinthall says the Department can sell four
of the guns it buys and keep one for annual re-certifications. Leinthall
is looking for a low-cost solution for the training, which must be done by
a certified trainer. She anticipates a cost of about $22,000, including staff
overtime. Orange County recently challenged the state’s firearm training
requirement and lost a court ruling. Joseph said he plans to contact State
Senator Michael Nozzolio, who chairs the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and
Correction Committee, as well as this area’s other state representatives,
to ask for legislation to exempt non-armed probation officers from the mandate.
Contacts: Tim Joseph, Chair of the Legislature, 277-2519; Kathy Leinthall,
Probation Director, 274-5380.
COUNTY AND LAND TRUST TO PARTNER ON FARMLAND PROTECTION
The Legislature voted 10 – 3 to accept a $946,162 state grant to purchase
development rights for 430 acres of agricultural land in Lansing. The grant
is part of the New York State Agricultural and Farmland Protection program
and will assure the acreage is managed with a high priority on preserving
open space and agricultural uses. Since 1982, Tompkins County has lost 21
percent of its farmland base, according to the County Planning Department.
Preservation of working farmland is important to retaining the rural character
as well as a vital economic sector of the County. This purchase of development
rights, also called a “conservation easement,” pays a landowner fair market
value to permanently restrict the future development of the property. As
co-holders of the easement, the Finger Lakes Land Trust will monitor and
manage the land, while the County holds responsibility for administering
the grant. Frank Proto, George Totman, and Daniel Winch voted no. Contacts:
Kathy Luz Herrera, Chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality
Committee, 273-8169; Andy Zepp, Director, Finger Lakes Land Trust, 277-1013.
LEGISLATOR TODD SAYS HE WILL PROPOSE SWITCH TO COUNTY EXECUTIVE
County Legislator Thomas Todd, a Republican, announced that he will
bring forward a resolution at the Legislature’s first meeting in June to
ask for a change in the highest authority of Tompkins County’s government.
Under the current structure, the Chair of the Legislature is the top elected
official and an appointed administrator serves as the organization’s CEO.
Some other counties have a county executive, who is both the top elected
official and the CEO. The County’s Government Operations Committee has been
studying the pros and cons of a change, which would require an amendment
of the County charter and majority approval of the electorate. Committee
Chair Michael Lane remarked that a change entails determining a number of
important details and that he has set no particular deadline for a committee
recommendation. Todd wants to speed up the process with a member-filed resolution.
Whether the measure comes to the Legislature via a committee recommendation
or through approval of a member-filed resolution, the process would still
require a public hearing and a vote of the full Legislature to approve the
Charter change. The change would then be subject to a popular vote in a general
election. Contacts: Thomas Todd, 533-7350; Michael Lane, Chair, Government
Operations Committee, 844-8440.
EXTEND EMPIRE ZONES TO ALL COUNTIES, SAYS TOMPKINS LEGISLATURE
At least one Empire Zone, New York State’s best known economic development
tool, exists in all but 11 of the state’s 62 counties. Tompkins County, which
has applied for an Empire Zone and been turned down, and has also pursued
sharing zone acreage with Schuyler County, is again asking the state to extend
the Empire Zone program to all counties. The move comes in the wake of State
Senate hearings in April at which a coalition of counties asked for the option
for all counties currently without Empire Zone designation to establish one
if there is local consensus. Besides Tompkins, counties lacking an Empire
Zone are Delaware, Greene, Hamilton, Livingston, Nassau, Putnam, Rockland,
Schoharie, Wyoming and Yates counties. Empire Zones typically encompass industrial
and commercial areas, within which tax incentives and credits are offered.
Contact: Kathy Luz Herrera, Chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental
Quality Committee, 273-8169.
SALES TAX RETURNS CONTINUE AT INCREASED LEVEL
Finance Director David Squires reported that County sales tax receipts
are continuing to come in well above expectations. Total receipts for April
were $2,795,955 as compared to $2,229,487 in 2003. The year-to-date total
of sales tax revenue for County government is presently $1,114,603 above
budget. Contact: David Squires, Finance Director, 274-5545.
COUNTY PROPERTY AUCTION TO HELD NEXT WEEK
Twenty four parcels that have been foreclosed on for lack of payment
of property taxes are being offered for sale on Wednesday May 26 at 7 p.m.
at the Human Services Building, 320 West State Street, Ithaca. A public information
session will be held May 19 at 7 p.m. at the Human Services Building to preview
the property information and discuss terms and conditions of the auction
process. Contact: David Squires, Finance Director, 274-5545.
EXPAND BOTTLE BILL, SAYS COUNTY LEGISLATURE
The Legislature gave approval (10 yes; 3 no) to a member-filed resolution
presented by Dooley Kiefer regarding expansion of the state bottle return
law. Bills currently under consideration in the State Assembly and Senate
would amend the 1982 Returnable Container Act to include several non-carbonated
beverages. The proposed change in the law would also convey unredeemed deposit
money to the State Department of Conservation to be used in municipal recycling
programs and other environmental programs. The resolution also supports an
increase in the deposit fee from 5 to 10 cents, which is not being proposed
in the state legislation. Contact: Dooley Kiefer,257-7453.
LIBRARY DISTRICT WILL BE DELAYED
Consumer and Community Affairs Committee Chair Dooley Kiefer reported
that the Tompkins County Public Library’s plans to become a separate taxing
body by establishing a countywide library district have stalled. The Library
Director reported to Kiefer’s committee on May 6 that the necessary state-enabling
legislation is being developed at a slower pace than expected. A library
district would require a majority vote of the electorate to become established.
Voters would also have the power to approve the library’s annual budget.
Contacts: Dooley Kiefer,257-7453; Library Director Janet Steiner, 272-4557.