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Highlights of the August 1, 2023 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Legislators Hear Presentation on the Rethinking Waste in Tompkins County Draft Plan

Kat McCarthy, Waste Reduction and Recycling Coordinator at the Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management Department presented on the County’s draft plan, “Rethinking Waste in Tompkins County.” In addition to the plan’s components and implementation timeline, the presentation outlined the history of the department which “laid the groundwork” for the work on waste reduction and materials management leading to this draft plan.

The plan includes several components:

  • The department’s planning efforts
  • The current types of waste and how they are handled in Tompkins County
  • Existing programs for reducing, reusing, recycling, and rethinking waste
  • The existing administrative and financial structure around recycling and waste diversion
  • Local laws and incentives around waste reduction and materials management
  • Strategies around waste reduction, reuse, recycling, organics, and rethinking waste
  • An implementation plan and schedule
  • Waste stream projections

McCarthy detailed how the plan aligns with the County’s diversity statement “The Plan has been developed with recognition that homogeneity, inequality in resource and opportunity access, and exclusion all impact the waste stream as well. For example, access to transportation, economic barriers, and geographic location all impact decisions made by consumers, which in turn influence the packaging and product waste that is generated.”

The plan is currently in a public comment period through Monday, August 7, 2023. Comments can be submitted to or in writing to the department at 122 Commercial Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850.

Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) thanked McCarthy for her work on the plan and the presentation. Mezey added that while the report may be long, the presentation is concise and digestible.

Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) asked what will happen in the first six months under this plan. McCarthy responded that the implementation timeline in the plan shows that the organics program would increase food waste being diverted, recycling initiatives would act to further reduce waste, and things like carpet recycling systems may come online over the life of the plan.

Legislature Accepts NYS GIVE Grant Funding for Sheriff’s Office, Probation

By unanimous vote in its consent agenda, the Tompkins County Legislature accepted $383,595 in funds from New York State for the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) grant program. $337,395 will be used by the Sheriff’s Office, and $46,200 will be used by the Department of Probation and Community Justice. A presentation on the actions the Sheriff’s Office intends to take under the grant can be found on the Tompkins County YouTube page (timestamped presentation link), and a document detailing the program’s budget can be found in the Sheriff’s monthly public safety report.

Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca) spoke about the grant in his committee report, “It’s significant money.” He added that the Sheriff’s office is “Talking to a company that does camera systems, increasing them along roadways in the county... They’re designed to automatically read license plates, and also incorporated is a microphone system to identify gunshots” which would alert law enforcement to gunfire earlier than when someone calls 911.

Motion to Oppose Seneca County Landfill Extension Passes Following “Motion to Reconsider”

A motion to reconsider a previously failed resolution objecting to the increase of the permitted landfill height and extended life of Seneca Meadows inc. was raised by Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca), who was absent for the last meeting – the motion to reconsider passed 10-4 (Legislators Shurtleff (R-Groton), Sigler (R-Lansing), John (D-Ithaca), and Lane (D-Dryden) opposed). If a member of the Legislature is absent at a meeting and unable to vote on a resolution that fails, they are allowed to make such a motion to reconsider, which proceeds if eight votes affirm the motion. Black shared that she was shocked by the way the resolution didn’t pass, and that she is in full support of the resolution. The resolution ultimately passed 8-6, with Legislators Shurtleff (R-Groton), Dawson (D-Lansing), Sigler (R-Lansing), John (D-Ithaca), Lane (D-Dryden), and Klein (D-Danby) opposed.

The resolution opposes the proposed increase in the permitted height and extended life of the Seneca Meadows landfill. The landfill is located in the Towns of Seneca Falls and Waterloo, Seneca County, New York. It currently doesn’t take waste from Tompkins County but that could change if a different contract were acquired by the County. If the additional permits are not approved at the State level, the landfill is slated to close in 2025 as has been planned.

In dissent, Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) spoke about the issue of comity, “In my opinion it is permissible for our Legislature to pass a resolution opposing or supporting actions taken by the New York State or Federal governments, because we are a constituent of those governments.  However, it is not within this Legislature’s purview to oppose or support proposed actions by Seneca County, Seneca Falls, and/or Waterloo, unless the impact of those actions on Tompkins County and its residents would be more immediate and direct than those shown in this resolution.” Dawson continued, “While I agree that this landfill is a blight and a health hazard to the Finger Lakes region, it is a symptom of our underlying solid waste problems and the state’s failure to address them.”

Among Other Business

The Legislature celebrated “Ithaca Farmers Market Month” with a proclamation. The proclamation detailed the Market’s impact on the local community and its 50th year of continuous operation in 2023. The proclamation highlighted that the Market has hosted over 750 businesses in its 50 years and serves over 5,000 customers on busy weekends with vendor sales totaling $5 million each year. The proclamation spoke to the community impacts of local farmers and the Market, with vendors accepting SNAP benefits and donating food and produce to local organizations serving individuals experiencing hunger. Monika Roth and Jan Rhodes Norman, both Board members of the Friends of the Ithaca Farmers Market, thanked the County for its support. Thursday August 17 will be the Market’s official celebration of 50 years with an event at the Farmers Market’s Steamboat Landing location in Ithaca.

A proclamation was read by Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Groton) celebrating George “Gus” Isaac who turns 100 years old on August 10, 2023. The proclamation detailed Isaac’s storied military career and his community service to Lansing, N.Y. The Legislature proclaims August 10, 2023 as George “Gus” Isaac Day in Tompkins County. 

Several residents of the Forest Home community in the Town of Ithaca presented concerns with a recent determination to conclude a Memorandum of Agreement on the Cradit Farm Drive and Pleasant Grove Road intersection. Chairwoman Shawna Back (D-Ithaca) shared an update that a new, independent study of the intersection and traffic patterns may be conducted in partnership with the County and Town of Ithaca. A request for proposals by consulting firms is currently being drafted, with specificity around the intersection rather than broader historical issues around traffic and Forest Home. Black also announced that much of the ongoing work on this topic will be discussed in the Legislature’s Facilities and Infrastructure Committee.

In her chair’s report Legislature Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) remarked that the County is “re-convening the Community Outreach Worker Program steering committee with the City of Ithaca and Downtown Ithaca Alliance. As you know, during the pandemic the group stopped convening, but it’s time to bring that group back together and assess the program’s progress and plans for the future.” Black assigned three Legislators to the group, Dan Klein (D-Danby), Greg Mezey (D-Dryden), and herself (D-Ithaca), as well as staff that will represent the County.