Highlights from the February 15, 2000 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
BOARD RENEWS APPROVAL OF LAKE SOURCE COOLING BONDS
The Board of Representatives agreed to the issuance by the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) of $50 million in tax-exempt bonds to Cornell University for its Lake Source Cooling project. The vote (10 - 3; Reps. Dooley Kiefer, Nancy Schuler, and Frank Proto voted no; Reps. Charles Evans and Stewart Stein was absent) was a virtual rubber stamp of action the Board took in June of 1998, when a one-year window was allowed for the bonding to occur. Slowed by litigation, Cornell did not apply for the bonds before the original deadline; it now has another year to do so. The IDA gains a $250,000 administrative fee, paid over five years, in return for issuing the bonds.
Several board members who voted in favor of the bonding pointed out that supporting the financing of Lake Source Cooling does not necessarily indicate complete satisfaction with the project itself. It was also pointed out that Cornell has other sources for funding the project, but that issuing the bonds locally benefits the IDA, which can use the fee it earns for economic development in the community.
BOARD WEIGHS SOLAR OPTIONS FOR NEW LIBRARY
Board Chair Barbara Mink suggested to the Board of Representatives that it consider paying outright, not borrowing, about $550,000 of a $1 million solar panel project for the new public library. The remainder of the cost can be paid with state and federal grants. According to solar energy studies and the manufacturer of the panels, the Ithaca climate provides enough sunshine to supply a significant amount of power to the building. Earlier, the Board heard figures that indicate that if it borrowed the money for the project, the County would see a net loss of about $7,000 a year for the first seven years, but then would start to save money over the remaining lifetime of the building. Projections prepared by County Engineer James Kazda show annual savings of about $40,000 would be attained after 12 to 15 years. By not borrowing for the project, energy savings would start more quickly, Mink pointed out. No decision on the panels was made. The Board agreed to study other buildings in the region that have recently installed similar solar systems.
MORE FUNDING NEEDED FOR RURAL LIBRARIES, COMMITTEE ADVISES
Libraries in Tompkins County need continued and increased financial support from the County and the municipalities the libraries serve, says a County committee report. The Library Coordination Committee, which has met for over a year, also recommended that the County Board put more study into determining how to fund rural libraries that undertake capital improvements. The report, which was unanimously accepted by the Board of Representatives, found that the County is well-served by its five public libraries, two reading rooms, the Finger Lakes Library System, and a number of special libraries. Media contact: Rep. Frank Proto, Library Coordination Committee Chairman, 277-4875.
BOARD HEARS REVALUATION DETAILS
County Assessment Director Stephen Whicher presented to the Board an overview of the 2000 revaluation of all taxable properties in Tompkins County. The preliminary total assessed value of all taxable properties in the County has increased by about 2 ¼ percent since the last complete valuation, which was done in 1990. Revaluation notices being mailed to every property owner show the old and new assessment. About 60 percent of residential property owners will see little or no change in their assessments, Whicher said. Taxpayers who disagree with their new assessments are encouraged to make an appointment with the Division of Assessment for an informal hearing. Hearing dates are shown on the revaluation notices. For more information, taxpayers should contact the Division of Assessment at 274-5456.
REP WANTS TO COMPARE ALTERNATIVE JUSTICE AND JAIL BUDGETS
Following consensus gained last week from the County’s Public Safety Committee, Rep. Tim Joseph suggested that the County seek proposals for programs that could potentially lower jail population. A potential jail expansion plan of $2 to $20 million is expected to be part of the 2001 County budget deliberations later in the year, and Joseph – who supports expansion of social programs instead of more jail cells – wants the Board to be able to see all its options.
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