Highlights of the March 18, 2008 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Airport Land Authorized for Inclusion in Lansing Sewer District
The Legislature, by a 10-3 vote (with Legislator Carol Chock absent and the District 12 seat vacant) authorized 12.5 acres of land belonging to Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to be included in a new Town of Lansing  sewer district.  (Legislators Kathy Luz Herrera, Frank Proto and Tyke Randall voted no.)  The district has been requested to serve to the Dutch Mill Industrial Park on Warren Road.  The airport land, located north of Cherry Road and on either side of Warren, is zoned industrial and is part of the County’s Empire Zone.  Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx told legislators that the availability of sewer service would allow the airport to lease land for industrial development, producing added revenue to support airport operations.  For a projected annual cost of approximately $4,500, it is projected that approximately $285,000 could be realized as net income over the next 20 years, the cost supported by existing revenues, including tenant rates and charges, not from county taxes.  Legislator Luz Herrera was one who spoke out against the proposal, saying that she is concerned both by proximity to the airport’s buffer zone and about how it might affect fees for the traveling public.  Commissioner Marx characterized the sewer infrastructure as a strategic investment by the Airport to help stabilize its long-term financial situation.
Contact:  Michael Hattery, 844-4361, Chair, Government Operations Committee; Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx, 274-5560; Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera, 273-8169.

Community Water System Fees Approved
By a unanimous vote of those present (with Legislator Chock absent and the District 12 seat vacant), the Legislature authorized the Health Department to implement a $130 fee for each of the county’s Community Water Systems.  Community Water System operating fees for 2008, as adopted by the Board of Health last year, were based on the population served by the water system, with as much as a $9,000 fee charged to large water systems.  A decision by State Supreme Court, Appellate Division last year, however, ruled that fees may not be based on population, necessitating the fee change.  Noting that 65 percent of the water systems serve populations of less than 50,  Health officials believe a higher fee would cause financial hardship for these small providers.  The  fee change for 2008 is project to produce an estimated program budget shortfall of more than $30,000.
Contact:  Liz Cameron, Director of Environmental Health, Health Department, 274-6692; Frank Proto, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 277-4875.

Legislature Distributes Additional Funds Through Municipal Sales Tax Agreement
The Legislature, by unanimous vote of those present (with Legislator Chock absent and the District 12 seat vacant), adjusted the 2008 budget for City of Ithaca services supported through the Municipal Sales Tax Agreement between the County and the City.  The distribution reflects a more than 10 percent increase in 2007 sales tax revenue (more than $1.5 million) over the amount budgeted for 2008.  The allocation splits more than $140,000 in additional funds among human services agencies, youth services and recreation programs, with pass-through payments to the City for Southside Community Center ($30,225); the Tompkins County Public Library ($12,846); Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit ($364,000); and Tompkins County Emergency Response (for emergency dispatching - $147,000).  
Contact:  Nathan Shinagawa, Chair, Budget and Capital Committee, 280-7557.

Legislature Takes Stand on Proposed State Health Insurance Legislation
By a vote of 11-2 (Legislators Greg Stevenson and Kathy Luz Herrera dissenting), the Legislature urged the state legislature to oppose proposed legislation that would prohibit public employers from diminishing retiree health benefits or municipal contributions for those benefits, unless corresponding changes are made for active employees.  Human Resources Committee Chair Jim Dennis said the legislation would produce a “dramatic” negative impact on local government spending.   Legislator Luz Herrera stated that “dialogue is needed” before taking a stand, instead of a “blanket condemnation.”
Contact:  :  James Dennis, Chair, Human Resources Committee, 387-4058; Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera, 273-8169.

Teresa Whitaker and Frank Towner Recognized as Distinguished Citizens
The Legislature recognized Teresa Whitaker and Frank Towner as this month’s Distinguished Citizens, for saving the lives of two people in separate incidents, through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).  Ms. Whitaker responded to a person who on January 11th had passed out at Cornell’s Sage Hall, where she works; Mr. Towner responded to a similar incident on February 15th at Ithaca’s YMCA.  Thanking the two recipients, Legislator Greg Stevenson characterized the incidents as “great examples of somebody who might not be with us today, were it not for a citizen who knew what to do and how to do it.”  The awards are sponsored by Bangs Ambulance Service, A&B Awards and Engraving, Purity Ice Cream and Cayuga Radio Group.
Contact:  Legislature Office, 274-5434.

Among other actions, the Legislature

§ Heard a year-end report on county tourism effort from Fred Bonn, Director of the Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

§ Approved a more than $320,000 2008-09 budget for the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council.  The budget is wholly supported through $281,321 in Federal Highway Administration funding and $40,396 from the Federal Transit Administration.

§ Authorized transfer of local funds and contractual authority to support the “Bridges” and “Rural Risk Reduction” programs for youth from the Youth Services Department to the Department of Social Services.  Youth Services will continue to monitor the programs.  The change will permit the County to leverage additional outside funding and the programs to expand at no increase in local cost.

§ Proclaimed March 20-27 as World Water Days and UNICEF Week; and Saturday, March 29, from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m.  Earth Hour in Tompkins County, part of a worldwide effort in which citizens are urged to turn off lights and other appliances not in use, as a symbolic effort to show support for serious actions to combat climate change.