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County, City Committees Hear Results of Law Enforcement Co-Location Study

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County, City Committees Hear Results of Law Enforcement Co-Location Study

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Tompkins County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee and the City of Ithaca’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, meeting in joint session, tonight reviewed preliminary findings of a Law Enforcement Co-Location Study. 

The consultant team led by Kingsbury Architecture, of Ithaca, was asked to perform the preliminary examination of potential opportunities to co-locate the Ithaca Police Department and the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office (Road Patrol and Civil Division) on a site to be identified somewhere within the City of Ithaca.  The study, commissioned last fall and jointly funded by the City and Tompkins County, examines feasibility of a joint public safety facility, including development of programmatic space needs and examination of possible sites that would meet program requirements.

Examination of opportunities for law enforcement agency co-location was first recommended in 2017 as part of the Tompkins County Law Enforcement Shared Services Study, conducted by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR).  Consideration of shared police services, including the use of shared space by police agencies operating in Tompkins County, was also advanced by the Tompkins County Council of Governments Municipal Shared Services Task Force.

Both County Public Safety Chair Rich John and City Planning Committee Chair Seph Murtagh stressed the importance of carefully considering the issue.  “This is one of the most consequential decisions we will make,” Mr. John said, noting that “a rare confluence” exists, with County and City law enforcement agencies looking at space issues at the same time, and cautioning that the process will take a lot of effort.  Mr. Murtagh called it “a very complex decision for both the City and the County.” 

After review of 13 potential sites, the Kingsbury consultant team identified property located at 100 Commercial Avenue (off Route 13 in the City’s Southwest), current location of the Harbor Freight retail business, as the most promising site for a potential co-location of the Sheriff’s Office ((TCSO) and IPD.  The consultant report, in part, notes that the parcel, located in a relatively low density industrial and commercial area, “features good vehicular access to Route 13 in a location where peak traffic level at rush hour has less potential to impede dispatched squad cars than other sites located closer to the center of the city.” 

For the property the consultants identify two alternate site concepts:  a Rebuild Option, assuming demolition of the existing building on site; and a Retrofit Option, which would renovate and reuse the existing building, as well as construct an additional structure on site.  Preliminary concept drawings propose the repurposed existing building as the Sheriff’s facility and additional space to be shared by the two agencies; the new structure to house IPD. 

Preliminary estimate of probable construction cost for the Rebuild Option: $19,262,000 to $21,290,000 (excluding building demolition cost); for the Retrofit Option; $21,736,000 to $24,024,000.  Regarding law enforcement agency space needs and how they might be addressed through a potential co-location, the Consultant, citing prior space studies, notes an identified IPD need of 40,250 gross square feet (GSF) and a need of 15,950 GSF for TCSO: a total of 56,200 GSF.  Through consolidated space, the Consultant indicates that total space needs for the two organizations could be reduced by nearly 7,500 GSF.

County Administrator Jason Molino reminded committee members that there are additional benefits to co-location that are hard to quantify, such as proximity and ease of communication between the two agencies, which carry unknown cost-benefit, but certainly do exist.

Ithaca Deputy Police Chief Dennis Nayor said his department strongly supports the idea of a new facility and has no objections to a shared facility.  County Sheriff Derek Osborne agreed that the opportunity to look at the co-location issue is definitely exciting, especially from the prospect of central booking and central arraignment at a future date, but that he has some concern regarding the prospect of dividing department operations (Road Patrol and Civil Divisions from Corrections) and in moving a Sheriff’s facility farther from higher-volume call areas such as Dryden and Lansing.

While the report indicates that a large vacant property north of the site would be feasible a potential location for a future county jail, Legislature Chair Martha Robertson stressed that there has been no decision to pursue a new jail and that consultants mentioned that only as a hypothetical factor. 

Committee members reviewed a draft resolution, to be considered separately by each committee beginning next month, which would authorize proceeding with a more in-depth feasibility study for a joint public safety facility—to involve both a detailed architectural/engineering study and an operational study to examine the operational use of shared facilities by the Sheriff and City Police agencies.