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Highlights of the August 15, 2023 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Legislature Hears Presentation on Capital Program

Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes shared an overview of the 2024 Capital Budget and Debt Service plan. The information presented was not the County Administrator’s budget recommendation, but rather a glimpse at long-range capital program scenarios.

The Capital Budget and Debts Service plan includes physical facilities and infrastructure funded by Tompkins County. Holmes’ presentation summarized existing and new projects that were requested in the five-year capital plan, including several under the Highway, Facilities, and Planning & Sustainability Departments, as well as the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport. Potential major projects with impending decisions by the Legislature include the Center of Government and Public Safety Building changes or redesigns.

The County has $32.5 million in projects in the County’s 2024 Capital program, with many projects supported through Federal and State funds, $7.3 million supported through the tax levy, and $4.8 million through the County’s fund balance. Additional projects may be added to the County’s Capital Plan.

Resolution Passes In Support of Ukraine

Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca) brought forth a resolution committing to continuing the support of Ukraine by displaying its flag in the Legislature chambers for another year. The resolution passed 10-3, with Legislators Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca), Greg Mezey (D-Dryden), and Randy Brown (R-Newfield) opposed and Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton) excused. No Legislators expressed support for Russia or its aggression against Ukraine.

Legislator Greg Mezey spoke about his apprehension to support the resolution and asked what steps the County is actually taking to do something actionable in support of Ukraine, as well as his concern that the resolution commits to displaying the flag “so long as the conflict continues,” citing the ongoing war and his expectation that it will not end any time soon. Mezey added, “…there are a lot of injustices and atrocities across the globe right now…” stating that he hopes the Legislature would support those individuals being impacted as well. Legislator Randy Brown added, “There are so many places on this earth where wars are happening… and we don’t talk about it.” In support of the resolution, Legislator Mike Lane refuted by stating that he was proud of supporting Ukraine with the symbol in chambers, adding that the United States is spending a significant amount of financial resources to support the democratic country in its war against Russia.

Among Other Business

The Legislature approved the installation of new digital monitors in the chambers for the viewing of presentations and other content during meetings. The resolution passed 12-1, with Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) opposed and Legislator Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton) excused. Lane expressed his disappointment with the new screens, while other Legislators remarked on the opportunity to improve the viewing experience while spending less than it would cost to replace the large projector screens. The new screens will replace aging projectors and will be easier to service and placed in locations viewable to both Legislators and the public.

Several members of the Cascadilla Creek Neighborhood Association and Historic Ithaca spoke during privilege of the floor in support of the County Legislature taking action to either upkeep or sell the County-owned building at 408 North Tioga Street in Ithaca. Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) who chairs the Facilities and Infrastructure Committee indicated that the future of the Center of Government plan and Tioga Street properties will be discussed in the August 17 meeting of the committee.

Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes shared that Charlene Holmes (no relation) will start as the County’s new Chief Equity and Diversity Officer in September. Charlene’s previous role was as Chief Equity Officer and Founder of Imana Borena, Inc – a diversity and inclusion consulting firm. Administrator Holmes shared her excitement for Charlene beginning in the role, stating that she “brings expertise in framework development and the execution realm, and has great people skills.”

Administrator Holmes also reported on the enhanced security efforts at the County’s Human Services Building including secured lockers, a weapons detection system, and armed security. Holmes thanked staff for their efforts to provide increased security for visitors, clients, and staff at the building.

Tompkins County Finance Director Lorrie Scarrott presented a sales tax report. The report indicated that in the 2nd quarter of 2023 the County’s receipts increased by 4.01% ($762,000) over this time in 2022. Overall, receipts are 2.23% ($475,000) above the budgeted amount for the year so far.