Highlights of the October 15, 2013 meeting of the
Tompkins County Legislature

 Patricia Carey Reappointed as Social Services Commissioner

The Legislature has accepted the recommendation of County Administrator Joe Mareane and reappointed Patricia Carey as County Commissioner of Social Services for a third five-year term.  The vote was unanimous, with Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Dooley Kiefer excused.  The Commissioner of Social Services is one of three County department heads who serve a State-mandated term of office and must be reappointed to a specified term.  During the term of office, the department head can be terminated only for cause.

 Administrator Mareane told Legislators he strongly recommends Commissioner Carey’s reappointment.  In preparing his recommendation, the administrator conducted an extensive review that included a survey of DSS employees, consultation with members of the Health and Human Services Committee, and his own evaluations of her performance.

 Praising the Commissioner as “a very adept and nimble manager,” Mareane observed that Commissioner Carey may well have the most difficult job in the County, and that based on reviews from a variety of perspectives, it seems clear that she performs the job admirably, navigating the department through some very difficult time while continuing to provide quality service to her clients.  Mareane also said Carey has been a leader in countywide initiatives that affect all County operations.  Legislator Frank Proto, who chairs the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, also urged Commissioner Carey’s reappointment prior to the vote.

 Commissioner Carey’s new term will begin November 10 and run through November 9, 2018.

Contact:  County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551; Frank Proto, Chair, Health and Human Services Committee, 277-4875.

 Legislature Urges Continued Fracking Moratorium and Advancing a Renewable Energy Economy

The Legislature, responding to an initiative of the organization Elected Officials to Protect New York, is urging the Governor and Executive Branch agencies to continue the de-facto moratorium on high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing; complete and disseminate all pending studies, especially the New York State Health Department study on public health impacts, and allot sufficient time for public comment  and for considering that comment; and focus on taking swift action in developing and adopting an economic development plan that will significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as rapidly create and deploy renewable energy and energy efficiency programs throughout municipalities in New York State. 

 After close to an hour of discussion that incorporated wording changes in the very detailed resolution, the final vote was 9-4, with Legislators Jim Dennis, Peter Stein, Brian Robison, and Dave McKenna voting no; Legislators Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Dooley Kiefer were excused.  Legislator Stein had unsuccessfully sought to incorporate substitute language that would have eliminated some detailed technical findings on the impact of methane release to the atmosphere.  Legislator Robison questioned the need to pass another resolution supporting a moratorium, after already passing others in the past.  Although this action incorporates support of renewable energy, Robison said he views this action as redundant, not needed, and something he could not support.  Legislator Dennis questioned why the action is needed now.  Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Chair Carol Chock said it’s important to join with officials across the state and to reflect developments that have occurred on the issue since the Legislature previously acted.  Legislator Pam Mackesey maintained it’s important to keep the pressure on, and that repetition is important.

 The Legislature’s action also states that Tompkins County “stands ready to work with the Governor to achieve these goals” to both create safe, sustainable jobs and address in a meaningful way the problem of climate change.

Contact:  Carol Chock, Chair, Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee, 273-9007.

 Legislature Authorizes Soil and Water Conservation District Move to County Public Works Facility

The Legislature, by a unanimous vote authorized a lease agreement between the County and the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District for unutilized space on the second floor of the County Public Works Facility on Bostwick Road.  (Legislators Dooley Kiefer and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne were excused.)  As well as providing a budget appropriation each year, the County has leased space for District operations, fully supporting the cost of that lease, currently more than $36,000 per year.  The action authorizes signing of a five-year lease for approximately 800 square feet of space, plus access to certain common areas at cost of $1, plus any charges for associated communications and technology services.  The lease runs from November 1 through October 31, 2018, with option for renewal.

Contact:  Peter Stein, Chair, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, 266-7579; County Administrator Joe Mareane, 274-5551.

 Among other actions, the Legislature

 §  Heard from Pete Meyers, of the Tompkins County Workers Center, and others who once again urged that county contractors be required to pay employees a livable wage.  They presented legislators with copies of a petition bearing the signatures of 1,157 county residents indicating their support and that they would be willing to pay a bit more in taxes to enable that to happen.

 §  Approved creation of temporary position slots in the Department of Emergency Response—two Project Assistant positions for use in special projects (such as those that are grant-funded) and two Emergency Dispatchers slots to provide the department flexibility, such as to bring new dispatchers on board for required training as  vacancies are anticipated.  Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera dissented.  She had supported separating consideration of the two position categories.

 §  Authorized the Department of Social Services to accept a more than $100,000 State grant and to enter into a one-year public-private partnership contract with the Child Development Council to work with some young families which have been the subject of a Child Protective Services Hotline report, to help them to overcome obstacles to successful parenting.

 §  Authorized payment of the 2013 installments for multi-year Tourism Capital Grants, funded through County Room Occupancy Tax, as recommended by the Strategic Tourism Planning Board and previously approved by the Legislature.  Receiving payments are the Cayuga Nature Center, Kitchen Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and the Sciencenter.

 §  Designated the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau as the official Tourism Promotion Agency for the 2013-2014 State fiscal year.