Highlights of the September 15, 2009 meeting
of the Tompkins County Legislature

Legislature Endorses Transport Truck Regulations

The Legislature, by a vote of 11-2, urged the Governor and State Department of Transportation to act without delay to implement state regulations that would limit traffic by large transport trucks on local highways. (Legislators Framk Proto and Mike Hattery voted no; Legislator Katshy Luz Herrera and Tyke Randall were excused.)  The pending regulations would limit truck traffic on Routes 96, 89 and 79 to local deliveries only, to address the issue of non-local transport trucks using local highways as an alternative to interstate highways, a practice blamed for disturbing rural residents, damaging pavement and threatening pedestrian and bicycle safety with an expected negative effect on the area’s tourism industry.


Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee Chair Pam Mackesey, who over the past four years has been actively involved in the regional effort to limit out-of-area garbage truck traffic to the Seneca Meadows Landfill, characterized the truck traffic problem as “unbearable” for residents along those roads, wearing on their health, safety and sanity, and sometimes causing financial hardship through depressed property values.


Legislator Nathan Shinagawa praised the diversity of wide-ranging support in addressing the truck traffic issue, which led to the proposed regulations.  Legislator Jim Dennis noted that enforcement will be critical in determining whether the proposed regulations would succeed in addressing the problem.


Legislator Proto expressed concern about the unintended effect the regulations might have on the movement of agricultural products and on the trucking industry, with potential impact statewide. He suggested that potential incentives for truckers could be investigated.  Legislator Hattery thanked Proto for researching the issue, calling the proposed regulations “a sledge hammer when another tool would be needed.”


During the 45-day comment period that ends October 9, citizens may register their comments on the proposed regulations by e-mailing the Department of Transportation at truckregcomment@dot.state.ny.us or by submitting written comments to the NYS DOT in Albany.

Contact:  Pamela Mackesey, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 273-6203; Legislator Frank Proto, 277-4875.


New Health Department Building Nears Completion

The Legislature received a progress report on construction of the new Tompkins County Health Department headquarters at 55 Brown Road in Lansing.  Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx and Facilities Director Arel LeMaro told Legislators the $8.4 million dollar project, approved by the Legislature two years ago, is coming in on time and on budget, with the department scheduled to occupy and new building this December. 


The County purchased the building, located in the Cornell Business and Technology Park for just under $3 million, with a 60-year land lease with the option of a 40-year renewal.  The project has involved complete interior deconstruction and redesign, with renovation and site construction scheduled to be completed next month.  Legislators were told that the project has encountered no significant obstacles, with the cost of site construction (which includes parking lot work) now expected to cost less than half as much as had been projected in 2008, thanks to a drop in asphalt and petroleum prices by the time that contract went to bid.  Commissioner Marx said each phase of the project was phased just right to take advantage of financial trends.  The project is the County’s first expected to  achieve LEED Silver status, recognizing environmental sustainability in such areas as site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor air quality, and innovation in design.


Legislator Jim Dennis, who served on the committee overseeing development of the project, praised Director LeMaro and others who carried forth the project, who operated effectively within the County’s financial constraints.  Commissioner Marx also commended LeMaro, for his significant extra effort to manage a major construction  project in a very successful way, while managing all of the County’s other facilities.

Contact:  Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx, 274-5560; Legislator Jim Dennis, 387-4058; Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Chair, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, 277-5104.


Legislature Accepts Two Aging Services Grants

The Legislature, without dissent, accepted two state home repair grants awarded to the County Office for the Aging, both to fund home repairs for low-income seniors. The Legislature accepted a $75,000 grant awarded under the RESTORE program of the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation, which will serve home repair needs of an estimated 35 households in emergency situations.  Also accepted was a $10,000 legislative initiative grant from Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, which will fund repairs not covered under the RESTORE or the state’s Weatherization Referral and Packaging Program.

Contact:  Lisa Holmes, Director, County Office for the Aging, 274-5482; Frank Proto, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 277-4875.

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