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Sale of CDBG Loan Portfolio Approved; Program Income Committed to Airport Accessibility Improvements

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Sale of CDBG Loan Portfolio Approved; Program Income Committed to Airport Accessibility Improvements

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Responding to a policy change by New York State regarding NYS Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program Income Funds and a challenging March 31st deadline, the Legislature, by unanimous vote , (Legislators McBean-Clairborne and Champion excused), authorized sale of the County’s NYS CDBG loan portfolio to Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services for $386,000.  The resolution commits County use of the sale proceeds to construction of ADA-related improvements as part of the ITH Airport Terminal Improvement project that will accessibility of the facility to persons with disabilities. Program income from the loan portfolio sale is expected to help cover approximately half of the currently planned ADA-related improvements that are part of the Airport capital improvement project. 

Last year, New York State made significant changes to its CDBG Program Income policies, so that as of March 31, 2019 communities will no longer be able to use program income funds and will be required to return all program income to the State.  Selling the Loan Portfolio and committing sale proceeds to a State-approved CDBG-eligible activity was the only viable path identified to retain local use of funds while conforming to State requirements.  Housing and Economic Development Committee Chair Anna Kelles noted that Tompkins County is the only county in the state that has been able to recapture the money that would have been lost by the New York State mandate.  Because of strict State guidelines and the very tight timeline, no housing-related projects were found that would qualify.  INHS Director Johanna Anderson expressed thanks to the County for what she called “a herculean task,” to make sure that money that was invested in Tompkins County will stay in Tompkins County.

Also related to the Airport project, several people addressed the Legislature during Privilege of the Floor, expressing concern about the Airport expansion, specifically concerns about the U.S. Customs facility that is an element of the project.  Some expressed fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could take advantage of the facility, others concern about impact on climate change.  Both Legislature Chair Martha Robertson and County Administrator Jason Molino responded.  “This is not a dangerous facility, this is under our control,” Robertson said.  “…There will not be tolerance for ICE coming into this facility, period.”  Administrator Molino noted there will be no access for anyone without going through security clearance, and that under the Memorandum of Understanding governing the facility the Legislature will be able to terminate for any reason with 90 days notice.