Highlights from the April 6, 1999 meeting of the

Tompkins County Board of Representatives


By unanimous vote (14-0, Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent), the Board of Representatives endorsed a proposal from the County’s E911 Operations Committee for a more efficient 911 operations center. Operations Committee Chairman Lou Withiam and County safety personnel outlined a plan for a new 911 dispatch center to contain all aspects of the system: call-taking; fire, police, and emergency medical services dispatch; and supervision. Lack of a centralized location has hampered the system’s ability to speed response time, reported Withiam. Police calls, for instance, are transferred from the present 911 dispatch center in the City of Ithaca’s Central Fire Station to dispatchers at the Ithaca Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Police barracks. "We need to eliminate, as best as possible, the transfer and holding of emergency calls," said Withiam. Lack of adequate space and having the supervisors’ office in another location are also drawbacks of the current system, Withiam said. While no location for such a center has been selected, the E911 Operations Committee has proposed expansion of the County’s Crash, Fire, and Rescue building on Brown Road, adjacent to the County airport. Details of operations, construction, and budget will be presented to the Board in the future. Media contacts: Rep. Charles Evans, 273-5488; E911 Operations Chairman Lou Withiam, 273-5375; Deputy Fire, Disaster, and EMS Coordinator Lee Shurtleff, 257-3888


In three separate resolutions, the Board of Representatives sent messages to Albany protesting policy changes and State budget proposals that reduce local revenues. The resolutions were:

¨ A call for legislation to exempt Tompkins County from the State’s 1998 action that removed sales tax on textbooks. The annual impact on tax revenue in the County is a loss of approximately $460,000. (13-1; Rep. Nancy Schuler, whose District 4 constituency includes a large number of college students, voted no. Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent.)

¨ A request to restore to the proposed State budget funds for local highway and bridge projects. Cuts in Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funds and in the Marchiselli Program, which provides matching funds for federal projects at the local level, would result in a loss of more than $110,000 for Tompkins County. (14-0, Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent)

¨ A protest against removing mail-in license and registration operations from local Departments of Motor Vehicles to the State level. The change would result in a loss of local revenue of about $29,000, according to County Clerk Aurora Valenti. (14-0, Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent)

Media Contacts: Sales tax - Rep. Rep. Tim Joseph, 277-2519; Highway funding - Rep. Barbara Blanchard, 277-1374; Highway Manager Ward Hungerford, 274-0309; DMV - Rep. Michael Koplinka-Loehr, 257-2329, County Clerk Aurora Valenti, 274-5431


The Board of Representatives agreed unanimously (14-0, Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent) to approve payment of just $7,269 from a total allocation of $150,000 for the year for board-out costs at the County jail. Late last month, Sheriff Peter Meskill announced at a Public Safety Committee meeting that there have been no board-outs from the jail since January 15. Media Contact: Rep. Charles Evans, 273-5488; Sheriff Peter Meskill, 274-1345.


The Board of Representatives approved (14-0, Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent) a five-year extension of a contract with Cornell University for discounted parking fees at the Tompkins County airport. In return for Cornell’s guaranteed minimum annual payment of $45,000, the airport will provide a 50 percent discount on parking spaces for University-authorized business travelers in its long- and short-term parking areas. Media Contacts: Rep. Barbara Blanchard, 277-1374; Airport Manager Robert Nicholas, 257-0456.


The Board of Representatives approved:

¨ Changes in the bylaws of the Human Rights Commission, primarily to redefine the roles of the staff and volunteer Commissioners. Staff members perform actual investigations of human rights complaints while Commissioners have an advisory and advocacy role. (13-1; Rep. George Totman voted no; Rep. Barbara Blanchard was absent.)

¨ An advance payment of $157,000, in anticipation of 95 percent federal and state reimbursement, for the Red Mill Road Bridge project in Dryden. (13-1, Rep. Dooley Kiefer voted no; Barbara Blanchard was absent.)