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Capital Program Committee Mulls Future Administrative Space Needs

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Capital Program Committee Mulls Future Administrative Space Needs

Thursday, May 13, 2010
As it continues to examine the County's long-term capital needs, the Legislature's special Capital Plan Review Committee today took a very early look at whether sharing administrative space with the City of Ithaca might be an eventual long-term option to consider.

Downtown Ithaca Alliance Director Gary Ferguson outlined key aspects of the Downtown Ithaca 2010 Strategic Plan, including the idea of a joint city-county administrative building--'a shared-services approach he suggested would serve the space needs of both municipal governments, achieve cost and functional efficiencies, free up existing spaces for re-use, and help encourage the growth of office space in the downtown core. Ithaca City Planning Director JoAnn Cornish indicated that the City would welcome the examination; while the City needs additional and more functional space, she said cost would be prohibitive for the City to proceed alone. Legislature Chair Martha Robertson and Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson have already begun informal discussion of potential opportunities for shared services through which the County and City might benefit.

Stressing that the focus would be on examining the potential shared-services arrangement as a long-term option, the committee asked County Administrator Joe Mareane as a first step to prepare a written proposal on how to proceed to examine the issue. It is expected that preliminary discussion would begin at the staff level before proceeding further.

The Tompkins County Space Use Master Plan, approved in 2005, in part recommends construction of a new county Center of Government building on the site of the Old Library. With the state court system calling for more space in the County Courthouse to meet its needs, County Planning Commissioner Ed Marx advised the committee to take a renewed look at that proposal this year, including whether the Old Library site would remain a viable option. He said the County must also examine the future of Old Library building, not currently maintained to public building standards, and to potential alternate locations for the Community Justice Center and records storage, currently housed in that building.

Legislator Mike Lane suggested that, as part of any facilities changes at the Courthouse, the County should seriously consider moving the County Clerk's Office from the building, noting that public access to the office is already difficult and will become more so, if the court system makes the Courthouse a totally secure building.

Among other critical issues Commissioner Marx identified for the committee to address:

- Reviewing space assessments for the Courthouse, the Human Services Building, and the Mental Health Building, to be completed within the next few months;
- Considering whether deferred facility maintenance should be accomplished through the capital program, instead of operations funding;
- Discussing the next phase of energy improvements;
- Discussing potential alternatives to additional office space;
- Reviewing ongoing highway maintenance needs, now that the highway capital project is coming to a close;
- Considering how updated master plans at the Airport and Solid Waste divisions could affect the capital program.

Administrator Mareane said he also expects upgrade of the Computer Aided Dispatch System at the Department of Emergency Response will need to be recognized as part of the capital process, with delivery of the system expected within the next two months.