Highlights of the August 4, 2009 meeting
of the Tompkins County Legislature
Legislature Endorses Grant Application to Expand Area Broadband Access
By a vote of 9-3, the Legislature endorsed the grant application of Clarity Connect, Inc. for federal stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to expand broadband access to local unserved and underserved communities. (Legislators Frank Proto, Mike Hattery and Kathy Luz Herrera voted no; Legislators Pam Mackesey, Will Burbank and Tyke Randall were excused.) The application seeks to access a portion of $7.2 billion for national broadband expansion to be distributed by two federal agencies under a nationally competitive grant program.

In its grant application, due August 14, Clarity proposes a coordinated approach to addressing the challenge of rapidly expanding the access and quality of broadband services throughout Tompkins County. The proposal would employ fiber and wireless technology to extend broadband service through what is known as a “Middle Mile” backbone extending from Broome County to the Syracuse area, through which additional providers would be able to provide public or private customer service.

The Legislature’s action acknowledges the effort of a local telecommunications entity engaging in a national competitive grant opportunity; acknowledges the need for broadband infrastructure development in the County to help bridge the “digital divide” for underserved and unserved communities; and recognizes the growing importance of access to broadband services for bolstering local economic development and for improving quality of life for County citizens. The resolution, however, is not an exclusive endorsement, stressed Legislator Carol Chock, vice chair of the Legislaure’s Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee. Any eligible public or private entity that meets grant program requirements can request a similar statement of support from the Legislature.

While expressing support for extension of broadband service, several Legislators expressed concern about the wording of the resolution, maintaining that too much is ambiguous and undefined—including what it means for the County to “endorse” a particular provider, what a “public-private partnership” means, and the identity of competitive providers said to support the proposal. Because of a tight submission deadline, the specific proposal was not available for review. Legislator Frank Proto said that, because of land use concerns, towns and the Tompkins County Council of Governments should be in the process. It was noted that universal town support is required as part of the application.

Contact: Carol Chock, 273-9007, Vice Chair, Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee; Legislator Frank Proto, 277-4875

Legislature Supports New York State Fair Pay Act
After postponing action at its last meeting, the Legislature, by unanimous vote, threw its official support behind the New York State Fair Pay Act of 2007, which bars pay inequities across different but equally valued job titles. (Legislators Pam Mackesey, Will Burbank and Tyke Randall were excused.) Action had been delayed two weeks ago, to give legislators the opportunity to gain a better understanding of bills currently pending before the State Senate and Assembly. The Act would amend Capital Labor Law to ensure pay differential is not based on a person’s sex, national origin or race; another bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton in the Assembly, would amend state Executive Law to make such unequal pay a violation of state Human Rights Law.

Through its action, the Legislature states that it believes both measures are needed and urges the Assembly and Senate to pass, and the Governor to sign, the Legislation.

Contact: Legislator Dooley Kiefer, 257-7453; Nathan Shinagawa, Chair, Government Performance and Workforce Relations Committee, 280-7557.

Corrections Officers Bargaining Agreement Ratified
The Legislature, by a vote of 10-2 (Legislators Frank Proto and Mike Hattery voted no; Legislators Pam Mackesey, Will Burbank and Tyke Randall were excused), ratified a one-year bargaining agreement with Correction Officers Local 2062 for the period of January 1 through December 31, 2009. The agreement, which covers 41 employees, includes a 2.25 percent salary increase. Members of the bargaining unit have already ratified the agreement. With the action, the County has now reached contract agreements with all but one of its employee groups; negotiations with the Sheriff’s Department Road Patrol remain in interest arbitration.

Contact: Legislator James Dennis, 387-4058; County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551.

Among other actions, the Legislature
  • Appropriated nearly $32,000 in contingency funding for each of the next five years to support rental expense for the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District at the former ICS Press site on Hanshaw Road in the Town of Dryden, where the County already leases space for the Board of Elections. Late last year, the Legislature authorized a lease agreement between the County and Soil and Water and set aside contingency funding for this purpose.
  • Authorized the Department of Emergency Response and Assigned Counsel Office to roll over a total of more than $48,000 in unspent funds from 2008 to support current-year expenses.
  • Heard a presentation from Commissioners Elizabeth Cree and Stephen Dewitt about activities at the Board of Elections, including preparations for a pilot program in the City of Ithaca for the 2009 elections, using the new optical scan voting machines.
  • Approved amended bylaws and an increase in membership for the County’s Air Service Board.


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