Highlights of the July 1, 2008 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Continental Airlines Expected to Begin Ithaca Service This Fall
In what he characterized as a “very preliminary, surprise announcement,” the chair of the County’s Air Service Board announced to the Legislature tonight that Continental Airlines plans to add new service between Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and Newark Airport, effective October 3, 2008.  The announcement came as board chair Larry Baum delivered an update on the activities of the Air Service Board at the Legislature meeting.  Continental is expected to provide four daily flights to the Newark hub; two flights on Saturday and three on Sunday.  Baum said the Newark hub greatly facilitates travel to and from international destinations.  The carrier is also adding three Pennsylvania cities, Baum reported, but not other nearby regional airports. 

In his upbeat report to the Legislature, Baum also reported that Northwest Airlines will begin offering jet service (two flights per day) in August, adding 20 passengers per day, but creating the challenge to make sure that those seats are filled.  Although the airport’s third carrier, USAirways, will reduce one daily flight each to New York’s LaGuardia Airport and to Philadelphia this month, Baum characterized that as seasonal, with restoration of those flights expected in the fall.  Although air service is an “extremely unpredictable market,” especially in light of a projected 20 percent service reduction nationwide due to the economics of skyrocketing fuel costs, Baum told the Legislature that this area is well positioned to preserve service, with a “relatively resilient economy” and its significant international component of travelers.  One of the ongoing challenges, he said, is to get more air travelers to “Fly Ithaca” – a recent survey showed more than half of local travelers flew from airports other than Ithaca. 

Legislator Nathan Shinagawa, who represents the Legislature on the Air Service Board, credits airport administration with doing “a fantastic job”, achieving “an amazing track record in New York State.”  As an enterprise unit, the airport is self-funded, with no government funding.  Most revenue comes from rentals and landing fees, with 95 percent of capital support coming from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Also related to the airport, the Legislature tonight awarded four consultant agreements with C&S Engineers, totaling nearly $750,000 for contract administration of airport capital projects.  Local expense is approximately $18,500.  Approval is subject to receipt of anticipated federal and state funding.
Contact:  Legislator Nathan Shinagawa, 280-7557; Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Chair, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, 277-5104.

Legislature Approves Multi-Year Funding for History Center
The Legislature, by a vote of 10 to 4, approved a five-year funding agreement between the County and The History Center in Tompkins County.  (Legislators Mike Sigler, Mike Hattery, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr voted no; Legislators Tyke Randall was absent.)  The multi-year approach, first discussed during preparation of the 2008 County budget, comes in recognition of the more than 50-year relationship between The History Center (formally known as the DeWitt Historical Society) and the County, related to the cost of maintaining a public museum and for procurement, storage and preservation of records and artifacts that document the history of the County and its municipalities

The agreement provides $88,228 in support for 2009 to compensate the History Center for occupancy costs at its headquarters at the Gateway Center on East State Street., with the County’s contribution rising by more than 3 percent for each of the next four years, through 2013.  The agreement also allocates $10,000 in contingency funding to reimburse the agency as reimbursement for prior years’ shortfalls in County occupancy support. The Legislature also directed that a Memorandum of Understanding be prepared detailing the Center’s obligation to the County regarding records and artifacts pertaining to County history, specifying that the agency shall not de-accession any material pertinent to Tompkins County history without review and approval of the County Historian and the County Records Officer.

Even some legislators who supported the arrangement expressed concern about a possible precedent that could be set by multiple-year agreements, and Chair Koplinka-Loehr said he could not support a multi-year agreement carrying a more than 3 percent annual increase.  Legislator Hattery said he supports the History Center, but objected on technical grounds – that the Legislature improperly modified provisions that had previously been negotiated between the Center and County Administration.
Contact:  Dooley Kiefer,Vice-Chair, Government Operations Committee  257-7453; Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329.

Increased Support Provided to SPCA
By unanimous vote, the Legislature allocated $15,000 in contingency funding to the Tompkins County Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) related to its contract with the County for providing shelter for seized animals and for lost, strayed and homeless cats.  (Legislator Tyke Randall was absent.)  The funding had been set aside during the 2008 County budget process, pending submission of further information on SPCA programs and services supported by the County contract. 
Contact:  Frank Proto, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 277-4875.

Caroline Photography Business Awarded Rural Small Business Loan
By unanimous vote of those present, Thomas Hoebbel Photography, of Caroline, was awarded a $25,000 Rural Small Business Loan, to purchase updated and expanded photography equipment to allow for further growth.  (Legislator Tyke Randall was absent.)  The low-interest loan funds are part of the Tompkins County Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund, using repaid Community Development Block Grant funds targeted for economic development activities.
Contact:  Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584.

Arts and Cultural Stabilization Grant Awarded for the State Theatre
The Legislature, by unanimous vote of those present, awarded a $37,000 Arts and Cultural Organization Stabilization grant to Historic Ithaca, for the State Theatre.  The Arts and Cultural Stabilization funds, which come from the County’s Room Tax Reserve, support financial and operational stabilization of arts and cultural entities.  The funds will be used to fund bookkeeping services and development support.
Contact:  Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584

Among other actions, the Legislature

§ Adjusted 2008 department budgets to reflect employee bargaining agreements ratified since the budget was adopted, increasing department fiscal targets by those salary adjustments, except for any positions designated as one-time.

§ Heard reports on activities of the County’s Sustainability Team and Emergency Management Planning Group

§ Designated the Ithaca/Tompkins Convention and Visitors Bureau as the County’s Tourism Promotion Agency for 2008-2009.