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Highlights of the November 1, 2022 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Legislators Approve Revision of Charter Effectuating Merger of Public and Mental Health Departments

A public hearing was held regarding the proposed County Charter changes needed to finalize the merger of the Tompkins County Public Health and Mental Health Departments. It is anticipated that the newly merged entity will be called “Tompkins County Whole Health.” The resolution amending the Charter passed unanimously, 13-0.

Following a question in the public hearing about language in the provision possibly being outdated, Tompkins County Public Health Director and Mental Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa clarified that “mental disability” is language reflected in New York State law, and while it is not a term used currently, in order for the County to be in compliance with the State language must be in accordance. A friendly amendment was moved that included a parenthetical for each mention of “mental disability” pursuant to the State language, citing in the text those with “mental health conditions” instead.

IAED Task Force Approved

A resolution was approved 8-4 (Legislators Sigler (R-Lansing), Mezey (D-Dryden), Shurtleff (R-Groton), and Brooks (D-Ithaca) in opposition) to establish a task force that will review the existing relationship between the County and Ithaca Area Economic Development (IAED). The need for a task force is called out in the memorandum of understanding between the parties. The task force would review the County’s interest and provision of financial support, how best to fund the organization, and necessary operational changes. The task force is slated to include Legislators, County staff members, local business, development, and union representation, and will occasionally include IAED staff for feedback and collaboration. The results of the task force are expected no later than March 2023.

In opposition to the task force structure, Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) opined that there should have been a Republican Legislator on the group, even while Democrats are in the majority, detailing his sales experience with local businesses and the business leadership experience of other Republican Legislators Randy Brown (Newfield) and Lee Shurtleff (Groton). Sigler continued, “I don’t know that it’s great either to have everybody voting on this as a County employee. It’s great that they’re included on it, I don’t know why we wouldn’t extend voting positions (to other members who are not County employees,”) asking for an amendment that would extend voting positions to the non-employees – it failed 6-6 (Legislators Sigler, Brown, Shurtleff, Mezey (D-Dryden), Brooks (D-Ithaca), and John (D-Ithaca) in favor), with explanations from Legislators Dan Klein (D-Danby) and Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) that this task force is to review the County’s position and interests as it pertains to IAED and economic development, and therefore County personnel were listed as voting members.

Among Other Business

A resolution was read celebrating Tompkins Girls Hockey Month, and the Tompkins Girls Hockey Association’s 50th Anniversary. The resolution was accepted by local players and cites “local girls with their parents and coaches were pioneers from the early days, and have been active fans as the sport has flourished at the regional, state, national, and international levels.” The resolution states that the Association is the oldest girls hockey program in New York State, and the third oldest in the country.

A resolution was read acknowledging General Aviation Month and celebrating the impact of the local general aviation industry. Officials from the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport and Taughannock Aviation, a local organization supporting and providing general aviation, were on hand to accept the resolution.

The Legislature celebrated the nearly 300 home-health aides who provide care to many hundreds of residents in the Tompkins County area with a proclamation of Home Care Aide Week in Tompkins County. The proclamation states, “home-health aides are vital members of our health-care team and improve the quality of life of our older citizens, people with disabilities, and their families.”

November 7 through 11 is Veterans Week in Tompkins County by way of a proclamation. The proclamation acknowledges the sacrifices and accomplishments of veterans, as well as their courage and valor. The proclamation also cites the challenges service members face when transitioning from military service to civilian life. Operation Green Light, a program seeking to “shine the light on the experience of veterans” will be in place at Tompkins County, with green lights being lit at the entrances of several County buildings – an invitation for the effort was also extended to the wider community. Director of the Veterans Services Department, J.R. Clairborne and Mary Fisk, his counterpart at Cornell University, accepted the proclamation. Clairborne spoke about upcoming events related to Veterans Week and shared that on November 11th at 11am there will be an event at Dewitt Park in the City of Ithaca.