Highlights of the August 6, 2013 meeting of the

Tompkins County Legislature


Legislature Inaugurates New Legislative Chambers

The Legislature convened its first meeting in its new Legislative Chambers, marking the historic occasion with a brief ceremony and open house for the public.  The Legislature has moved its Chambers and offices to renovated quarters on the second floor of the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building (formerly known as the Old Courthouse) next to DeWitt Park, after leaving the space it had occupied for 80 years at the Tompkins County Courthouse to meet the needs of the New York State court system.

 With Vice Chair Mike Lane and the rest of the Capital Plan Review Committee looking on, Legislature Chair Martha Robertson and Clerk of the Legislature Cathy Covert cut the ceremonial ribbon to formally open the space.  (Clerk Covert is a direct relative of Governor Tompkins, for whom the building is named.)

 The Legislature heard from County Historian Carol Kammen, who talked about the history of the building and what life was like in Tompkins County around 1854, when the historic building—the oldest Gothic Revival courthouse in New York State—was built.  County Poet Laureate Tish Perlman offered a poem reflecting on life in Ithaca and Tompkins County.  Chair Robertson noted that, in moving to its new Chambers, the Legislature has actually returned to the building that was its initial home—headquarters of the Tompkins County Board of Supervisors before moving to the County Courthouse in 1933.

 Legislators reflected on the long path and many decisions that led to developing the new Chambers, voicing special thanks to Facilities Director Arel LeMaro and HOLT Architects for forging many views and perspectives into a functional and attractive space, one that dignifies the discussion, improves interaction among legislators, and provides space and technological advancements to improve access for the public the Legislature serves.  Legislator Lane remarked, “For the first time we have treated the people who come down and sit with us at our meetings with respect…We have created a space that is for the public, and invite all to enjoy it.”

Contact:  Martha Robertson, Chair of the Legislature, 274-5434 or 272-0584; Michael Lane, Legislature Vice Chair, 844-8313 or 844-8440.

Legislature Approves Innovative Partnership to Procure Renewable Energy

The Tompkins County Legislature approved a new approach that will enable Tompkins, and other public entities throughout New York State, to buy electricity from small-scale renewable energy producers.  In what will be the first program of its type in the state under new regulations, the Legislature, by unanimous vote, approved a partnership with the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA) to procure the services of companies to develop renewable energy resources on behalf of Tompkins.  All other political subdivisions and districts in the state are authorized to participate in the contracts awarded as a result of the RFP.

 With the County serving as Procuring Municipality, the Legislature authorizes MEGA to issue a Request for Proposals, on behalf of the County, to procure services of small-scale energy producers to develop a program whereby up to two megawatts of electricity from renewable sources could be acquired by participants to address up to 25% of their electricity needs through long-term agreements with nearby renewable energy suppliers.  The Legislature’s action represents the first in a series of steps, and does not commit to the purchase of power.

 The MEGA program will establish what is known as a “remote net metering” relationship between its participants and specific solar, micro-hydroelectric, and farm waste-to-energy facilities with generating capacity of up to two megawatt of electricity, allowing the energy generated at such facilities to be sold to participants at off-site locations within New York State.  While energy consumers in New York State wanting to use renewable energy previously had been limited to energy from on-site sources, a new law passed last year and modified Public Service Commission rules will now permit the sale of up to two megawatts of renewable electricity to nearby consumers located off-site. 

 “I am excited that Tompkins County will work with MEGA to lead the way for municipalities across New York State to encourage and purchase renewable power,” said Carol Chock, Chair of the Legislature’s Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee.  “With MEGA's base of over 200 counties, towns, public authorities and institutions, we hope to achieve the generation of a significant amount of renewable power. This partnership will save dollars for municipalities across the state, demonstrate that we can scale up the generation of renewable power, and create green jobs.”

 County Administrator Joe Mareane noted that the program will enable Tompkins, and other municipalities, to stabilize a portion of their electricity costs over the long term, as well as having a positive effect on development of renewable generating facilities in New York State.

 Tompkins County was a founding partner of MEGA in 1998.  The Alliance now includes more than 30 county governments and over 250 municipalities in New York State, and on behalf of the counties collectively bids for electricity and natural gas supplies, with the goal of achieving energy savings for participating municipalities and other participants. 

 Legislature Chair Martha Robertson called the initiative ““really groundbreaking and really exciting.”

Contact:  County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551; Carol Chock, Chair, Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee, 273-9007.

 Contract Awarded for Food Scrap Recycling Program

The Legislature, without dissent, awarded P&S Excavating – Cayuga Composting, LLC, of Trumansburg the contract to provide food scrap recycling services in Tompkins County for a period of not less than three years.    Through this public-private partnership, the organic material will be processed and the resulting compost marketed through this public-private partnership.  The County was awarded a $200,000 grant through Empire State Development to significantly increase food scrap recycling through composting.  Noting that this program is a significant element in reaching the county’s goal of diversion of 75% of the solid waste stream, Solid Waste Manager Barbara Eckstrom remarked that this is only the beginning of what will happen over the next few years:  “The beauty of this is that we are working with a local company and not a national company with other interests.  The community will benefit tremendously from this opportunity.”

Contact:  Barbara Eckstrom, Solid Waste Manager, 273-6632.

 Legislature Bids Fond Farewell to Retiring Finance Director David Squires

On the occasion of his final Legislature meeting, the Legislature honored and thanked Finance Director David Squires, retiring after more than 20 years of service.  “We are going to miss you tremendously,” Chair Martha Robertson said.  “Your service to Tompkins County and our residents has been extraordinary.  We have been guided by you all these years with prudent decisions…We are in your debt and will be for many years for the footing you have put us on.”  Director Squires responded, “It has been a privilege to serve this county.  I have been very fortunate to have this opportunity.  I truly thank everybody from the bottom of my heart for giving me the privilege to serve.”

Contact:  Martha Robertson, Chair of the Legislature, 274-5434 or 272-0584; Finance Director David Squires, 274-5544.

 Resolution Passed in Support of Two-Row Wampum Renewal Campaign

The Legislature approved a resolution in support of the Two-Row Wampum Renewal campaign, marking the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum Treaty, the first agreement between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy and European settlers.  The resolution passed by an 11-3 vote (Legislators Frank Proto, Brian Robison, and Dave McKenna dissenting and Legislator Pam Mackesey excused).  Some expressed concern about reference in the resolution regarding land rights of indigenous peoples, and the resolution was amended to omit a provision calling on the U.S. government to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The measure expresses support for the year-long campaign to honor native treaties and protect the earth; joins the Two Row Campaign’s call to keep hydrofracking out of the state and to expand other environmental protection policies and practices; and calls on both the State of New York and the citizens of Tompkins County to build positive and respectful relations with their Native neighbors and with all Native Peoples.

Contact:  Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Chair, Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee, 277-5104

 Among other business, the Legislature 



Marcia E. Lynch
Public Information Officer
Tompkins County
125 E. Court Street
Ithaca, NY  14850
Tel: 607-274-5555/Fax: 607-274-5558