Highlights of the July 15, 2008 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
County to Lease Space for New Voting Machines
The County will lease the former ICS Press building, located on Hanshaw Road in the Town of Dryden, to house the County’s new electronic voting machines.  The Legislature, by unanimous vote, authorized the County to enter into a five-year lease agreement on behalf of the county Board of Elections. (Legislator Will Burbank was absent.)  As well as storage space for the machines, additional space will be available for training Election Commissioners on the new ballot marking devices.  The leased space satisfies the need for secure, dry space for the sensitive electronic devices, which cannot safely be stored in the former county library building, where the County’s old lever-style voting machines are housed.  Two other agencies also will sublease part of the building leased by the County.  The lease will run through January 15, 2013.
Contact:  Michael Hattery, Chair, Government Operations Committee, 844-4361

Legislature Extends Exemption for Solar Energy Systems
A local tax exemption on residential solar energy systems, which has been in effect since 2005, will become permanent.  The Legislature, by a vote of 12 to 2, voted to permanently exempt residential solar energy systems equipment and installation service from local sales and use taxes, once the current three-year exemption sunsets as of the end of November.  (Legislators Frank Proto and Tyke Randall voted no; Legislator Will Burbank was absent.)  Legislator Proto characterized the exemption as inappropriate, since it applies to only solar power and not other alternative energy sources, such as wind power, wood or switchgrass, noting that grant assistance and tax credits may be available for residential solar systems.
Contact Nathan Shinagawa, Chair, Budget and Capital Committee, 280-7557; Legislator Frank Proto, 277-4875.

Public Hearing Scheduled on Proposed Acquisition of Enfield Emergency Communications Tower Site
Citing ongoing problems with access to leased premises in the Town of Enfield upon which the County constructed a telecommunications facility as part of the County’s new public safety communications system, the Legislature, by unanimous vote (Legislator Will Burbank was absent), authorized a public hearing to be conducted next month, pursuant to Eminent Domain Procedure Law.  The hearing will take place August 19, 2008 at 5:30 p.m., at Legislature Chambers, 320 North Tioga Street, Ithaca.  The hearing’s purpose will be to inform the public and to review the public use to be served by the proposed acquisition via eminent domain, as well as the impact on the environment and residents of the locality where the proposed acquisition will take place. 
Contact:  Michael Hattery, Chair, Government Operations Committee, 844-4361

Legislators Decline to Fund Lansing Community Library
A proposal to allocate $5,000 in contingent funding for the Lansing Community Library failed by a vote of 5-9.  (Legislators Greg Stevenson, Jim Dennis, Mike Hattery, Kathy Luz Herrera, Dooley Kiefer, Pam Mackesey, Martha Robertson, Nathan Shinagawa, and Chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr voted no; Legislator Will Burbank was absent.)  Lansing Legislator Mike Sigler, who proposed the measure to cover unplanned start-up costs related to the library’s transition late last year from a provisional reading room to permanent rural library, called it “an equity issue,” noting that the county’s other four rural libraries had received similar start-up funding at the time that they joined the Finger Lakes Library System.  But others pointed out that the premise of that earlier funding to the other rural libraries was not the same, that the other libraries had provided considerable documentation of financial need for their County support, and that the Lansing Library had not requested the allocation and had indicated that it would not need County funding.
Contact:  Legislator Michael Sigler, 339-7978

Legislature Authorizes Appropriation of 2007 Unspent Funds
By unanimous vote, the Legislature authorized ten county departments to use surplus funds from 2007 to support current year expenses. (Legislator Will Burbank was absent.)  County Finance Director David Squires has certified nearly $3.5 million in unspent appropriations and excess revenues and, pursuant to county fiscal policy, departments requested nearly $3 million of that amount be rolled over to support department needs this year.  The Department of Social Services and the County Attorney’s Office returned their rollover dollars to the County’s general fund.
Contact:  Nathan Shinagawa, Chair, Budget and Capital Committee, 280-7557

Tourism Capital Grants Awarded for Hangar Theatre and Kitchen Theatre
The Legislature authorized $84,000 in financial support, through a two-year tourism capital grant, for renovation of Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre, funded through county Room Occupancy Tax dollars, allocating  $50,000 for 2008 and $34,000 for 2009.  Another $13,000 was awarded to the Kitchen Theatre, to aid in its search for a new, larger facility.  The grants were recommended by Tompkins County Area Development and the county’s Strategic Tourism Planning Board, the board predicting that the theatre improvements supported through the grants will enhance county tourism and, in doing so, will increase income from the county’s tourism program.

In a separate action, Legislators, also provided a $13,000 tourism project grant, also supported through Room Occupancy Tax funds, for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, for visitor-related improvements. 
Contact:  Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584

Among other actions, Legislators
  • Awarded Procon Contracting, LLC, of Vestal the contract for culvert replacement on County Road 188, Station Road, in the Town of Danby, for its $222,000 bid submitted July 1.  The award is contingent upon approval and confirmation of state transportation department funding for the project.
  • Authorized the County to apply for more than $3 million in Federal Transit Administration funding on behalf of the County and Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit.
  • Approved a $17,000 payment from the contingent fund to the firm of Roemer, Wallens & Mineaux, LLP for contract negotiating services for the County’s road patrol contract.