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Aging Office/Justice Center Location Question Addressed Through Compromise Plan

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Aging Office/Justice Center Location Question Addressed Through Compromise Plan

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Trying to decide among a half-dozen options regarding where to locate the County Office for the Aging (COFA) and the Community Justice Center, the Legislature, after more than an hour of discussion Tuesday, opted for a seventh alternative, to address the issue, at least for now. By a vote of 12-3 (Legislators Jim Dennis, Mike Lane, and Pat Pryor opposed), Legislators approved a proposal, advanced by Legislator Peter Stein, to renovate the Human Services Annex (the former Carpet Bazaar building on West Martin Luther King, Jr./State Street, which had first been envisioned as the permanent home for COFA) for flexible use; move COFA to that space on a temporary basis; renew the search for alternative permanent locations for Aging and the Community Justice Center; and delay any decision on longer term occupancy in the Annex until review of permanent alternatives is completed.

The action stresses that it is the Legislature's desire to retain both COFA and the Justice Center in suitable permanent downtown locations. It acknowledges the benefits of relocating the Justice Center to the HSA, but notes that COFA must vacate its current space in the County Courthouse by early next year, requiring an interim, temporary location until an alternative permanent location is developed. Upon COFA's relocation to alternate space, the measure states it is the Legislature's intent to relocate the Justice Center to the Annex.

The Legislature's Capital Plan Review Committee last week had examined, but failed to reach agreement on any of the six alternatives--'which included moving COFA to the HSA permanently as planned; or relocating it permanently or temporarily to available space at the Health Department; to the former Fall Creek Studios building on North Tioga; to the Old Courthouse (with Planning and the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council moving to the Health Department); or temporarily to the Old Library. All options other than the original plan to permanently move COFA to the HSA relocated the Justice Center to the Annex. The committee had ended up recommending the Old Library option, but some members had stressed they only voted that way to advance the matter to the full Legislature.

Legislator Jim Dennis sought to substitute a proposal to move COFA to the Health Department permanently, and Legislator Frank Proto asked to substitute the proposal to move COFA permanently to the Human Services Annex, but both those options failed to win support.

Before the issue was considered, eight people addressed the Legislature, all urging that COFA remain in a downtown location. Before the vote, Aging Office Director Lisa Holmes called the decision process complicated but positive, saying she feels seniors have been heard about the importance of keeping services downtown. She believes the option offers functional space, which can be occupied indefinitely until a permanent location is found. Probation Director Pat Buechel said she also believes the decision is the right one and that the Justice Center program can "sit tight right now."