Highlights of the October 20, 2009 meeting
of the Tompkins County Legislature

Legislature Accepts Report on Indigent Defense
The Legislature received and adopted recommendations of the Task Force on Indigent Representation, which over eight months examined alternatives to effectively deliver legal services to county residents who cannot afford legal representation.  The vote was unanimous, with Legislators Mike Hattery, Kathy Luz Herrera and Tyke Randall excused.  The report finds that the County’s Assigned Counsel program provides high quality representation at lower cost than would a public defender model or any other combination of services, but also recommends modifications to improve training, accountability and workflow.  Legislators expressed their deep gratitude to the Task Force for its thorough and dedicated work over many months..  Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne also thanked former County Administrator Steve Whicher for initiating the matter for study last year.
Contact:  County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551; Martha Robertson, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 272-0584.

Public Hearing Scheduled on Proposed Increase in Landline Surcharge
On November 4, the Legislature will take public comment on a proposed local law that would increase the telephone landline surcharge to support operation and maintenance of the County’s public safety communications system.  The hearing, approved by unanimous vote of those present, will be held November 4, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Legislature Chambers of the County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca.  The new law would revise the existing local law to increase the access surcharge for landline telephones from.35 to $1.00 per line, as permitted by enabling state legislation approved earlier this year.
Contact:  County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551; Martha Robertson, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 272-0584.

Franklin Appointed Interim Director of Assessment
The Legislature, by unanimous vote of those present, appointed Assistant Director of Assessment Jay Franklin interim director of the department, succeeding Director Valeria Coggin, who will retire at month’s end.  County Administrator Joe Mareane requested the Legislature’s confirmation of the interim appointment pending results from a civil service examination for the position.  Legislator Dooley Kiefer expressed the Legislature’s thanks to Director Coggin for leaving the department in good hands at the time of her retirement.

Legislators also renewed two other top-level appointments, reappointing Personnel Director Anita Fitzpatrick to a new term extending until June 1, 2011 and Republican Elections Commissioner Elizabeth Cree to a new two-year term, beginning January 1, 2010 and running through the end of 2011.
Contact:  Nathan Shinagawa, Chair, Government Performance and Workforce Relations Committee, 280-7557; County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551.

Contract Awarded for Rural Van Service
The Legislature, by unanimous vote, awarded Ithaca Dispatch, Inc. the contract to provide rural subscription van service to operate in the Towns of Enfield and Newfield.  (Legislators Mike Hattery, Kathy Luz Herrera and Tyke Randall were excused.) The on-demand service will provide transportation service to and from Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) bus stops, aimed at providing low-income rural residents with better access to employment and other services.  The service initially will operate as a two-year pilot project in the two towns, and will be evaluated before any expansion of service to other rural areas.  Ithaca Dispatch, in the first year of the two-year contract, will be paid a base price of $60 per revenue hour, with the service funded through up to $275,000 in  federal and state transportation funds for its first year.  As part of the action, County Social Services staff is authorized to provide technical assistance to the contractor, to help it comply with federal and state regulations.

In a separate action related to transportation assistance, the Legislature, without dissent, authorized the Department of Social Services to accept a $140,000 “Wheels for Work” first-year grant from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and to contract with two local credit unions to initiate a subsidized car loan program through two local credit unions.
Contact:  Frank Proto, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 277-4875; Patricia Carey, Commissioner of Social Services, 274-5251.

Legislature Authorizes IDA to Issue Federal Stimulus-Related Bonds
The Legislature, without dissent, designated Tompkins County a “Recovery Zone” under provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and designed the County’s Industrial Development Agency as exclusive issuer of tax-exempt facility bonds known as “Recovery Zone Facility Bonds.” (Legislators Mike Hattery, Kathy Luz Herrera and Tyke Randall were excused.)  As part of the federal stimulus program, the County has received authority to issue more than $2.3 million in such bonds to help support economic development and to create jobs.  The designation permits the County to issue these bonds for business development activities which historically would not qualify for such low-cost financing. 
Contact:  Pamela Mackesey, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 273-6203; Legislator Martha Robertson, Chair, Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency, 272-0584.

Among other actions, the Legislature

  • Authorized two public hearings on housing, public facilities, and economic development needs related to the 2010 New York State Office of Housing and Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant program.  The hearings will be held at 5:30 p.m. on November 4, 2009 and January 19, 2010 at Legislature Chambers of the County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca.
  • Accepted a five-year, $125,000 per year federal substance abuse prevention grant awarded to the Youth Services Department, on behalf of the Community  Coalition for Healthy Youth,  The grant, awarded through the federal Drug Free Communities Support Program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will expand the coalition’s efforts to prevent and reduce substance use among youth countywide.
  • Authorized amendment of a 2009 Federal Transit Administration grant budget, to add to TCAT’s preventive maintenance budget nearly $183,000 in federal rural transit funds, which have been allocated by the State Transportation Department.
  • By a 10-2 vote (Legislators Will Burbank and Dooley Kiefer dissenting), authorized the Planning Department to accept 2009-2010 Snowmobile Grants-in-Aid from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Tonight’s meeting was adjourned on a day-to-day basis, to allow the Legislature to return to session on 48-hours notice to act on recommended changes to the County Administrator’s 2010 tentative budget, once the Expanded Budget Committee review process has been completed.  The earliest that is expected to happen would be Wednesday, October 28.  The Legislature’s proposed budget will be put to public hearing Wednesday, November 4, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Legislature Chambers.



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