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County to Purchase Ithaca Building to House Aging Office

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County to Purchase Ithaca Building to House Aging Office

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tompkins County will purchase the building that most recently housed the Carpet Bazaar, located at 214-216 West State Street (Martin Luther King, Jr. Street) in Ithaca to house the County Office for the Aging (COFA). The County has for years searched for facilities to which to relocate COFA, to comply with the State's mandate for COFA to vacate its space on the ground floor of the County Courthouse. The New York State Court Facilities Act mandates counties provide adequate space to the State court system, and for several years, the State has advised the County that the courts, at a minimum, need the space in the courthouse now occupied by COFA.

The Legislature approved the sale by a vote of 11-3, with Legislators Carol Chock, Frank Proto, and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne voting no.

The County will pay $600,000 (present value) for the building in a structured sale that will provide payments of $52,000 per year for 15 years. The sale is contingent upon the building having a clean bill of environmental health. After looking at a number of potential alternatives over several years, County Administrator Joe Mareane told legislators this space appears well suited for COFA. Mareane noted that the property has the advantages of being located close to the County's Human Services Building in a downtown location that is easily accessible to the Office's clients. Saying that there is some urgency to act with responsible speed to meet this immediate facilities need, Mareane advised that closing is expected before March 1, 2011. Praising the Court system's patience, Legislature Chair Martha Robertson said that finding new space for COFA has been discussed since she joined the Legislature nearly nine years ago.

Legislator Chock said she reluctantly voted no, that while she sees the need for new COFA space, she expressed concern that the action could interfere with City efforts to develop the West State Street corridor. Legislator Proto said he commends staff efforts in locating alternate space, but thinks the cost is too high. A companion resolution, which determined that the acquisition will not carry a negative environmental impact, was also approved by a vote of 11-3, Legislators Chock, Proto, and Kiefer dissenting--'Kiefer saying that her no vote stemmed from not being able to review the actual environmental assessment form.

The County will next develop a plan to renovate the building and seek legislative approval for funds to support the renovation. COFA is expected to occupy the building before the end of 2011.