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Committees Recommend Support for Downtown Community Outreach Worker Program

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Committees Recommend Support for Downtown Community Outreach Worker Program

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Legislature’s Government Operations Committee today joined in recommending County financial support toward a joint program which will support a Community Outreach Worker program in downtown Ithaca.

The committee, by unanimous vote, joined the Legislature’s Health and Human Services, and Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committees in recommending that the Legislature allocate $20,000 for that purpose from the Contingent Fund, set aside last fall as part of the County’s 2015 budget process, as part of a partnership involving the City of Ithaca, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA), and Family and Children’s Service.

The Community Outreach Worker Program, the result of months of thoughtful study by a joint working group, is recommended to address the needs, concerns, and wishes of the many stakeholders in the downtown area, to effectively provide and promote continually positive and inclusive experiences for those living, working, and visiting Ithaca’s downtown area, and to promote a welcoming, inclusive, accessible, and tolerant downtown atmosphere enjoyable to everyone.  The program target area is the State Street/MLK corridor extending to Meadow Street, and including the Ithaca Commons and Cayuga Street from the Library through DeWitt Park.

Speaking to the committee today, Ithaca City Attorney Ari Lavine said the program, as developed by the joint steering committee, uses a “social services approach” to serve as a “strong street presence” to proactively and positively deal with issues and address common concerns, reducing the responsibility for intervention by law enforcement.

The City of Ithaca is allocating $20,000 and the DIA $10,000 toward the joint initiative.  Family and Children’s Service has committed to serve as the employer of the Community Outreach Worker.  County funds released from the Contingent Fund are recommended to be allocated to County Administration (instead of to the Library budget, as had initially been proposed).

Among other business today, the Government Operations Committee provided initial support for a proposed local law that would, under provisions of State law, exempt “sparkling devices” from the definition of “dangerous fireworks” as prohibited by State law and, would permit their sale in restricted periods during the year.  The committee also recommended scheduling of a public hearing on the proposed local law.  Although joining in the recommendation, Committee Chair Dan Klein expressed some reservation, cautioning that he doesn’t consider the devices completely safe, since they burn at a very high temperature and are known to cause some injuries.