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Highlights of the March 19, 2024 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Resolution Passes Supporting Proposed State-Level Climate Change Measures

A resolution passed 11-3 (Legislators Randy Brown (R-Newfield), Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton), Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) opposed) supporting New York State Budget proposals and legislation to address climate change. Legislators Randy Brown (R-Newfield) and Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton) shared their disagreement with several of the measures supported in the resolution, with Shurtleff speaking about the challenges of reducing natural gas availability for some manufacturing businesses in the Lansing area. Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) refuted that the natural gas issue in Lansing is not something that local governments like Tompkins County have control over.

The resolution supported the following measures:

  • NY Home Energy Affordable Transition Act (S.2016-A/ A.4592-A)
  • Just Energy Transition Act (S.2935-C/A.4866-C)
  • Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129-A/A.3351-A)
  • Green Affordable Pre-electrification (GAP) Fund (S8535/A9170)
  • Stop Climate Polluter Handouts Act (S.3389/A.7949A)
  • Packaging Reduction including the Bigger Better Bottle Bill (S4246/A5332)(S237/A6353l)
  • P-12 Climate Education Bill (S278A/A1559A)
  • Renewable Action through Project Interconnection and Deployment (RAPID) Act (Part O) (S8308/A8808)

Among Other Business

During Privilege of the Floor for Legislators, Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) spoke about opportunities for the County to support the local homeless population year-round and proposed the concept of funding the Code Blue program beyond its current parameters. Code Blue is a State-funded program that reimburses the County for shelter provided to anyone in need during cold-weather months (typically from October-April, when temperatures can reach freezing overnight). Mezey remarked that he believes the funds are available locally, adding that the model shows success during those cold weather months when more shelter beds are able to be procured through contracts with providers including hotels. Chair Dan Klein (D-Danby) asked that this concept and discussion be added to a future Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting (which Mezey chairs).

Chair of the Legislature Dan Klein (D-Danby) read four proclamations celebrating aspects of the Tompkins County Community. Proclamations were made for Women’s History Month, American Red Cross Month, Women’s Veterans Recognition Day, and Vietnam Veterans Day.

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) provided a brief overview of the County’s support of Tompkins Cortland Community College. Lane described the college as “the most important inter-municipal partnership that we (the County) have.” Tompkins County contributes around $3.3 million to the College’s annual budget, with additional over target requests approved in recent years. Lane shared that the college has a main campus in Dryden with extension centers in both Cortland and Ithaca. It was reported that microcredential programs, featuring 5-6 weeks of instruction and exposure to local employers, have been increasingly popular, including those in the health industry.

A resolution passed accepting the Tompkins County Building Code Administration and Operations Study 14-0. Legislator Randy Brown (R-Newfield) called attention to the study, thanking staff who worked on it and outlining that municipalities had found several potential benefits to working more closely together and sharing resources in the area of building code administration.

A resolution passed unanimously (14-0) urging New York State to reduce the cost of State-mandated programs on local taxpayers to help alleviate the housing affordability crisis. The resolution details how the State requires counties to pay a local share of Medicaid costs, which have increased in recent years. The resolution urges the State Legislature and Governor Hochul to freeze growth, reduce, or eliminate county costs for state-mandated programs and to eliminate or reduce annual payments from counties for state-mandated programs.

A resolution passed 14-0 updating the sign-in form for public speaking at legislative meetings. The sign in form will now include the following language under rules for speaking under privilege of the floor: “I agree to be courteous and not make comments, gestures, outbursts, or other disruptions while other members of the public or Legislators are speaking.”

A resolution passed 12-1-1 (Legislator Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) opposed, Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) recused) to authorize funding to implement a MOA between the County and the County Deputy Sheriff’s Association which would raise wages for seven titles in the Sheriff’s Office. Legislator Pillar indicated their opposition on the grounds of this being based on information from one other policing agency and that according to a 2023 compensation analysis these titles weren’t out of line with the market whereas other positions had larger gaps in current pay rates as compared to the market.  

A resolution passed 14-0 authorizing the removal of the properties located at 300 and 308 North Tioga Street in Ithaca to make way for a future Center of Government office building. The removal would occur before February 2025. There was conversation on the need to document buildings that will be removed as they are in a historic district, though they are not contributing structures – that documentation would be contributed to the State Historic Preservation Office so that future state and federal funding streams can be preserved.