Legislature OKs plans for at-risk youth housing

By Tompkins Weekly Staff
 
The Tompkins County Legislature has approved county financial support to enable Tompkins Community Action to develop the Amici House Project, which will serve homeless and housing-vulnerable young people.
 
The action, taken at the June 21 legislature meeting, authorizes the county to acquire a parcel of land at 661 Spencer Road, owned by TCAction, for $118,000, and amend the county’s 2001 financing agreement for acquisition and development of TCAction’s adjacent headquarters, to incorporate the parcel.
 
The existing 20-year payback agreement with TCAction will be extended by two years, to 2023, to reimburse the county for the additional expense. Approval came by a vote of 13 in favor, with legislator Carol Chock recusing herself due to her family connection with Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, which is involved in some aspects of development of the project.
 
Amici House will house otherwise homeless young people, ages 18-25, some of whom may have children. Operated by TCAction, the project will provide up to 23 units of supportive housing, as well as five Early Head Start Classrooms. It will consist of two structures, one for the residential units, the other for the classrooms. The legislature’s action consolidates ownership of the entire TCAction complex. TCAction will use the sale proceeds to help develop the Amici House project, which is also expected to draw outside grant support.
 
Noting the project’s significance, legislator Martha Robertson praised the initiative as “a terrific project”, which will meet a significant need for child care and infant care, providing 42 Early Head Start spaces for kids, serving “an unserved population we have been hearing about since 2001,” and creating 25 living wage jobs.
 
TC3 budget approved
 
The legislature took five separate actions regarding Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3). All were approved by unanimous vote.
 
Following a public hearing, lawmakers approved adoption of the college’s $41.6 million 2016-17 operating budget. The budget contains no increase in the sponsoring counties’ contribution from current-year levels, and must also be approved by the Cortland County Legislature.
 
Legislators also approved an increase in the college’s current year operating budget, to incorporate an $831,941 increase in revenue from an increase in concurrent enrollment, enabling such revenue to be used for operating purposes. The modification has no effect on the sponsoring counties’ share.
 
The TC3 roof replacement project was approved, following severe damage incurred to a section of the roof during a significant rain/wind storm in early May. The project must also be approved by the Cortland County Legislature. The estimated $3.5 million cost will be borne half by State University of New York emergency funds and half by the County sponsors, and the Legislature formally agreed to secure funding for Tompkins County’s portion of the local share (63 percent based on proportional student enrollment from the two counties.)
 
In a related action, the legislature authorized issuance of up to $1.1 million in serial bonds and notes to pay for facility and infrastructure improvements at the college related to the roof reconstruction project.
 
The legislature went on record in support of the TC3 Child Care Center project, which will construct a stand-alone child care center adjacent to the main campus building. The $4 million project will be funded through $1 million in state grants, $1.5 million in SUNY Capital Project Funds and a $1.5 million local share, through private funds already received.
 
Energy legislation
 
The legislature, by a vote of 11-3 (Mike Sigler, Glenn Morey, and Dave McKenna opposed), went on record opposing some provisions of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016, approved in the U.S. Senate, with a modified version passing in the House of Representatives. The legislation expedites approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, review of new mining permits, and oil and gas permitting and drilling through a 2,000-well pilot program.
 
The legislature cites objections to provisions that, in part, include:
—Requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve LNG export terminal projects no later than 45 days after the final environmental review is filed.
—Making FERC the lead agency over all federal authorizations for natural gas projects.
—Requiring all state and other federal agencies conducting authorizations to defer to the FERC.
—Authorizing $175 million to fund expansion of methane hydrates research and development
—Proposing a study of the potential for ethane storage in the Marcellus, Utica, and Rogersville shale, factoring in only economic impacts, and not environmental or climate change.
The resolution states, “We can only conclude that the proposed bill will lead to more hydraulic fracturing for natural gas across the country, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions, and incentivizing the construction of new domestic natural gas-fired power plants.” The measure urges Congress to remove the provisions from final energy legislation, and urges Congress to pass energy modernization legislation that greatly advances energy efficiency, builds on policies to expand clean energy sources, and reduces economic and energy dependence on fossil fuels.”
 
Sigler said that the county should not be taking up the issue, since it is a complex global issue that involves much more than just the legislature.
 
Energy and Economic Development Report
 
Lawmakers heard a presentation on the final report of the county’s Energy and Economic Development Task Force, from task force chair Charlie Trautmann. The Task Force, comprising local business leaders, government officials, and environmental advocates, was brought together by Tompkins County Area Development at the request of Legislature Chair Mike Lane. The group has studied ways to advance the County’s greenhouse gas emission goals over the next five years while supporting the growth of jobs and the economy.
 
The report includes eight recommendations that could be initiated within the next five years, would be under local control, and would support the County’s economic development goals.
 
Tax Cap Override Approved
 
By a vote of 10-4, legislators Glenn Morey, Mike Sigler, Peter Stein, and Dave McKenna voting no, the legislature adopted a local law permitting the county to override the tax levy limit for 2017.
The law does not necessarily mean that the legislature will override the cap, but provides flexibility to exceed the cap if it is deemed necessary.