¨ NEW 911 CENTER WILL BE BUILT ON
ITHACA’S SOUTH HILL
By a vote of 14-1 (Rep. Michael Lane voted no), the Board of Representatives approved a site for a consolidated 911 dispatch center for Tompkins County. The 911 center will be built next to South Hill Fire Station #5, to the south of the Ithaca College entrance. The cost of the building has not been determined, but $1.5 million for construction, plus $700,000 for 911 equipment, has already been approved for the project. Other sites that were considered for the 911 center include two locations at the County airport; in or next to the County’s Public Safety Building; next to Ithaca College’s Campus Safety building; and the site on Hanshaw Road where a new state Department of Transportation facility will be built. Factors such as cost, vulnerability to hazards, security, and suitability for radio communication were used to make the decision. In January, all Sheriff’s Office dispatchers were moved to Ithaca’s Central Fire Station on West Green Street, where the 911 dispatch center is currently contained in one small room. Once the new center is complete, Ithaca Police Department dispatchers and the County’s 911 management team will be located there. Fire Station #5 is operated and staffed by the City of Ithaca, and the building and land are owned by the Town of Ithaca. Rep. Barbara Blanchard, chair of the Communications Capital Committee, has met with city, town, and college officials, and preliminary discussions indicate that all parties are willing to work together. Contacts: Barbara Blanchard, 277-1374; Ithaca Fire Chief Brian Wilbur, 272-1234.
¨ COUNTY PREPARES FOR TOUGH BUDGET
Tompkins County Administrator Stephen Whicher and Budget Committee Chairman Tim Joseph previewed some steps that the County may take, or has already taken, to preserve services without significantly raising taxes in 2002. Joseph noted that the hefty fund balances the County has been able to spend for the past several years have shrunk, and that a more austere budget will be necessary. He outlined a scenario for controlling spending that would absorb contractual pay raises while allowing no increases in departmental budgets. The so-called "maintenance of effort" increases departments have used to cover payroll hikes would not be allowed. In addition to these controls, if the County put all of its available fund balance – estimated at $3.3 million – into the budget, and also asked for a total of $700,000 in "give-backs" from the departments and contract agencies, a 2002 tax rate increase could be held at about 4 percent. A 4 percent increase would add about $20 to the $544.46 County property tax bill on a $100,000 property. Whicher announced that he has discussed the need for a spending freeze with departments and agencies and also that he has instituted a "soft hiring freeze" for the organization. The hiring freeze will require close scrutiny of any position that becomes vacant, to see if it can be eliminated, replaced with a less senior position, or if the duties can be rolled into another position. Contacts: Rep. Tim Joseph; County Administrator Steve Whicher, 274-5551; Deputy County Administrator Kathryn Smithers, 274-5551.
¨ BOARD CLARIFIES HOW COUNTY WILL
WORK WITH TOWNS ON TOWER SITING
The Board of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution stating the County’s intention to work cooperatively with any municipalities in which a County emergency communications tower might be located. Authored and endorsed by the Communications Capital Committee (ComCap), the resolution is meant to send an official message to town leaders that their concerns about tower location, height, and environmental or other impacts will be taken seriously. Several new emergency communications towers are almost certainly going to be a part of the Public Safety Communications System that is in the planning stages. In the hope of side-stepping any legal wrangling, the Board states in the resolution that the County recognizes concerns the towns have about the towers and "intends to address them in a collaborative way." The resolution also confirms that the County will pursue a full environmental review for the project. Contacts: Barbara Blanchard, 277-1374; Peter Penniman, 387-5897.
¨ PROGRAM WILL MONITOR GREENHOUSE
The Board of Representatives unanimously approved a free program that will identify local sources of greenhouse gas emissions and provide recommendations for reducing emissions. The program is provided to municipalities by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. Contact: Peter Penniman, 387-5897.
¨ COUNTY GRANTS $7,500 FOR DRYDEN
The Board of Representatives voted 12-3 (Reps Dooley Kiefer, Frank Proto, and Daniel Winch were opposed) to approve a Commercial Center Revitalization grant of $7,500 to the Village of Dryden to help purchase land for a village park. The village will buy a vacant plot of land on the northwest corner of Main Street and North and South streets to create a small park. Reportedly, in addition to County and village funding for the project, local citizens have pledged $13,000 for the park. Contact: Peter Penniman, 387-5897.
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