Highlights from the February 1, 2000 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
BIDS AWARDED FOR RECYCLING CENTER IMPROVEMENTS
By unanimous vote, the Tompkins County Board of Representatives awarded construction contracts for an expansion of the Recycling and Solid Waste Center on Commercial Avenue in Ithaca. Estimated to cost $944,000, the project includes:
-- building a Household Hazardous Waste Management facility,
-- adding collection bins and expanding the public recycling drop-off area,
-- adding an area for a new re-use building for construction waste.
The cost of the project is being covered by Solid Waste Management Division funds, including some revenues from the Solid Waste Annual Fee. The Division plans to try to recover a portion of the cost with a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
The construction bids were awarded to:
-- Paul Yamen Construction, Cortland, NY – $568,640, general construction
-- R.G. Burns Electric, Inc., Stanley, NY – $66,536, electrical work
-- Tri Cities Temperature Control, Inc., Binghamton, NY – $45,000, heating and ventilation
-- James L. Lewis, Inc., Chenango Forks, NY – $56,150, plumbing
The Household Hazardous Waste Management facility, scheduled to open by July, will be available to Tompkins County residents and qualified small businesses. The types of materials that could be brought to the facility include those labeled poisonous, corrosive, flammable, or explosive. The facility will be open two to three days a month, by appointment. The Solid Waste Management Division has planned for the facility to accommodate, in one year, about 2,500 vehicles bringing materials to drop off. Based on that level of activity, the Division has estimated that operating costs will be about $200,000 a year. County officials are considering whether to charge a fee to users to offset the expense.
Safety-Kleen, Inc., a licensed hazardous waste management firm based in Andover, MA, will operate the facility. While many hazardous materials will be shipped out of the county for disposal or recycling at licensed sites, other products will set aside for a Product Exchange program.
The public drop-off area will be expanded to accommodate the 80,000 vehicles a year that use it. The construction materials reuse program, a partnership with Historic Ithaca, Inc., will benefit from the project, which will add a paved area for a storage facility for reusable construction and architectural materials that are pulled from the waste stream.
BOARD OKAYS ANNUAL PAYMENT TO DOWNTOWN PARTNERSHIP
The Board of Representatives unanimously (by a vote of 14-0; Rep. Susanne Davis was absent) approved $10,365 in an annual payment to the Ithaca Downtown Partnership (IDP), up from $5,980 paid in previous years. The County’s voluntary contribution, which is based on the assessed value of property the County owns in the Business Improvement District, increased with the acquisition of the former Woolworth site.
COUNTY WANTS RETURN OF SALES TAX ON TEXTBOOKS
By a vote of 13-1 (Rep. Nancy Schuler voted no; Rep. Susanne Davis was absent), the Board approved a resolution urging the New York State legislature to allow Tompkins County to collect sales tax on textbooks. In 1998, the state removed sales tax from all textbooks purchased by undergraduates, a decision that County officials estimate has resulted in a loss to the County of about $260,000 a year, as well as a loss to the City of Ithaca of about $200,000 a year. The Board has argued that the county’s disproportionately high number of students – approximately 25,000 out of a total population of 97,000 – makes the tax exemption unfair.
COUNTY SUPPORTS VISITOR SIGN PROJECT
Tompkins County will join with the City of Ithaca, Cornell University, Ithaca College, the Ithaca Downtown Partnership, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to create a system of signs to aid visitors in finding local attractions. County legislators voted 13-1 (Rep. Dooley Kiefer voted no; Rep. Susanne Davis was absent) to allocate $5,000 from the County contingent fund for a demonstration project focusing on the downtown Ithaca/Commons area. The estimated cost for this first phase of the two-part project is $31,000. The second phase would make signs available county-wide.
STATE SENATE LOOKS AT PROTECTING COUNTIES FROM COST OF HEALTH PLAN
Tompkins County Administrator Richard Erb reported to the Board that a bill supported by the majority leadership in the NYS Senate would protect counties from additional costs associated with the recently approved Family Health Plus program. Under the current scheme, counties would pick up the costs of the low-income health insurance plan through increased Medicaid payments.
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