Highlights of the August 16, 2005 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
The Legislature focused on whether to “accept” or “adopt” the controversial final report of the Space Needs and Location Committee. The report, discussed at length at the Legislature meeting two weeks ago, recommends the County begin design and construction of at least two new buildings within three years. The committee’s report recommends a new downtown office building on the site of the Old Library on North Cayuga Street and a new Health Department building on West Hill. A third building, at an undetermined location, would house the Community Justice Center. The total estimated cost of the buildings is $27.5 million. Several Legislators expressed alarm at the implication that the County would launch three new capital projects at a time when it is faced with many competing needs and limited funds. Legislature Chair Tim Joseph explained that accepting the report would register the Legislature’s acknowledgment and thanks. Adoption would mean agreement with all aspects of the report and launch its implementation. The Legislators agreed to accept the report. Michael Lane cast the sole no vote. A top priority of the committee was replacement of the ailing Biggs B building, which currently houses the Health Department. Assistant Facilities Director Gil Tunney reported that his crews have responded to complaints of mold growth in one office at the building. A new ceiling and walls have been installed in that office. Tunney also mentioned there was moisture in the basement of the building and that his crews are running a number of dehumidifiers in non-inhabited areas. Offices on the floor above may need new air conditioning units, said Tunney, and replacement of a leaky portion of the building’s roof will take place soon.

A recent inspection of a communications tower on the roof of the County’s Public Safety Building showed the tower to be unfit to support the equipment of a commercial cell phone provider that rents space on the tower. Tompkins County leases tower space to commercial cell phone carriers to reduce the total number of tower structures in the county and to gain revenue. The Legislature unanimously approved building a new structure about a mile to the north on County-owned land on Snyder Road in the Village of Lansing. The new tower, to be an unlighted, free-standing latticework structure, will hold current and anticipated commercial co-locators. The co-locators will reimburse the County for the $160,000 cost of the structure. Co-location revenues paid by private commercial carriers over the next ten years will total an estimated $1.1 million. The tower on the roof of the Public Safety Building will be used for County purposes until the new Public Safety Communications System is competed and then it will be decommissioned. By a vote of 12 to 1 (two members were absent), the Legislature approved using $160,000 from the County’s contingent fund for the project.

The Legislature approved by a 12 to 1 vote (two members were absent) the issuance by the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) of up to $50 million of low-interest bonds to refinance a number of capital projects undertaken by Ithaca College over the past decade. Kathy Luz Herrera, Chair of the Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, said that the bond issue will help the college save interest expenses and will help the IDA, which receives a fee for issuing the bonds. Frank Proto voted no.

In1992, Tompkins County asked for and was granted permission by the state government to charge an additional 1 cent per dollar of sales tax, above the 7 cents allowed by statute. Every two years the County is required to request renewal of the permission. Ten Legislators approved the request. Kathy Luz Herrera, Frank Proto, and Nancy Schuler voted no; Michael Koplinka-Loehr was absent; Barbara Blanchard had left the meeting.