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Public Safety Committee Meeting Highlights, July 24, 2019

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Public Safety Committee Meeting Highlights, July 24, 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Sergeant Army Sgt. James Johnston Presented Tompkins County Champion Award
Before the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office honored Army Sergeant James Johnston, of Trumansburg, with presentation of the Tompkins County Champion Award. Sgt.  Johnston was killed while on active duty in Afghanistan on June 25, 2019. 

Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne said, “When we created this award program, we wanted to highlight those who performed a heroic act, saved a life, or promoted public safety.  Never did we anticipate recognizing someone for making the ultimate sacrifice.  Sgt. Johnston gave up his life at the very young age of 24, standing up for our nation’s ideals and safeguarding our freedoms.”

The award certificate reads: “To an individual whose actions were not a passing moment of courage; they were a culmination of a life of character and commitment.”

Accepting the award was Sgt. Johnston’s father-in-law, Fred Vanderzee, a member of the Sheriff’s Office staff, as a cook in the Corrections Division.  Mr. Vanderzee noted that Sgt. Johnston had told him, ‘Dad, if I have to die, I want to die in battle.’  “He is a hero,” Vanderzee said.  “No doubt about it.”

Funding Recommended for Public Safety Building Conditions Assessment
The committee, by unanimous vote, recommended that the Legislature appropriate $74,000 from the Contingent Fund to support a Building Conditions Needs Assessment of the County’s Public Safety Building, a facility built in 1986 without any major renovation in 33 years.  The action would also execute a contract with LaBella Associates to conduct the study, services to be billed per hour at a cost not to exceed the $74,000 amount. 

The study would evaluate architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, life safety, and security and control systems; investigate feasibility for carbon mitigation; assess the facility’s below-grade sanitary sewer piping; and review and identify any suspect regulated building materials.  The study would not address programming-related changes and would not hinge upon any decision by the County and City of Ithaca regarding whether a joint public safety facility warrants further study.  Chair Rich John said, however, that this study would be “the first step in some very big and tough decisions we will have to make” regarding the Public Safety Building, and would assess current conditions to help provide guidance as the County considers whether to fix the existing building or start anew.

Discussion Continues on Support for Deer and Bear Rifle Hunting in Tompkins County
There was more discussion, but no recommendation yet, on a resolution in support of allowing deer and bear rifle hunting in Tompkins County, a resolution that, if approved, would ask the County’s legislative delegation to support an amendment to State environmental conservation law to add Tompkins County to those counties in which such use of rifles for that type of hunting is authorized.

James Boylan, Chief Environmental Conservation Officer for the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Central New York Region, and Lansing Town Justice Dave Banfield, a long-time hunting instructor and chair of the Finger Lakes State Parks Commission, were both invited to provide information to the committee and to respond to questions.  The committee was told that the number of hunting-related shooting incidents has decreased dramatically over the last 30 years, with no apparent variance related to the type of implement used.  Rifles are already used in Tompkins County to hunt other types of game, they noted. 

The committee moved to schedule a public hearing before the full Legislature, expected at its August 20th meeting, to invite public comment on the issue.