February 27, 2004

February Town Board meeting minutes

I didn't make it to this month's Town Board meeting, so I was especially interested to see the minutes which recently appeared. As a number of issues were discussed at different points in the meeting, the summary below attempts to cluster information by subject rather than time.

Citizens question the town

The meeting started with Robin Seeley's question about actions taken during the executive session of the January 15 meeting, in which the Town Board voted itself a negative declaration on a SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) statement. "Supv Trumbull said they had been investigating possibly purchasing the golf course." There will apparently be a public hearing if and when this purchase happens. (Why is the town buying a golf course?)

Peggy Walbridge asked about the status of the work being done on Hunt Hill Road and noted her concern that the previous meeting seemed to be more of a rush to finish than to gather citizen input. She noted that this work has been the subject of "four years of discussion" and concerns from citizens that the highway department may embark on "perhaps not a good way to rebuild the road."

Gender identity and discrimination

Jim Crawford brought up his concerns about the county's proposed (and now passed) law prohibiting discrimination on grounds of gender identity, asking for delay and information about costs and liabilities. (Crawford, of Freeville, is the publisher of The Herald-Examiner, the free conservative monthly available at grocery stores and elsewhere. Councilman Hattery is listed as an "advisor" to the paper.) This sentence of the minutes leaves me wondering what he was getting at:

He [Crawford] said that with issues such as affordable housing that are being addressed, and an eye toward accommodating people who might want to live here and give them reasons to move here as opposed to other competing communities, and asked whether legislation like this might put Dryden and Tompkins County in the news in a little bit different light to an extent that this is radical legislation.

There was extended conversation during the County Briefing about the county's amending the discrimination law to prohibit discrimination on grounds of gender identity, with Councilmen Michaels and Hattery leading the charge against it. Michaels seemed most concerned about its impact on business. Hattery was concerned about subpoena powers and that "without any restrictions on those kinds of broad powers there is the potential to infringe on other citizens rights in an attempt to protect other rights", about which County Legislator Michael Lane said he (and James Crawford earlier) was incorrect. The subpoena powers are the same as they were for other forms of discrimination and go through the county attorney's office, not investigators. Hattery "doesn't have any confidence that there are adequate boundaries on the abilities of the human rights investigators or the county attorney."

Grant possibilities

Bernie Thoma of Thoma Development Consultants presented his company's services as a possible means of getting additional funding for the town, through their grant writing services. Thoma has done work for the Village of Dryden. In the County Briefing, county legislator Martha Robertson noted that the County may also provide grant-writing services at similar fees.

Cable complexities

The public hearing on Time-Warner Cable's proposed franchise was rather involved. I strongly recommend reading this portion of the minutes, as it's difficult to summarize. Time-Warner hasn't had a contract with the town for six years, and has continued to serve the area under temporary operating authority from the Public Service Commission. The town collects a 3% tax on subscribers (of a possible 5%). There were a lot of questions about bringing high-speed network connectivity to the town hall and TC3, something that apparently fell out of regional negotiations when the City of Ithaca, Town of Ithaca, and Village of Cayuga Heights went for a separate contract. No action was taken.

Creating a Conservation Board

The board examined a proposed local law for redesignating the Conservation Advisory Council to be a Conservation Board, and a public hearing will be held at the March 11 meeting. As Attorney Perkins noted, the way the law is drafted means that:

The involvement of the Conservation Board is any review is totally discretionary with the referring body the way it is proposed.

The only way the Conservation Board will get to review proposals is if another board explicitly refers proposals to it, though "Developers and/or applicants are strongly encouraged to present their proposals to the Conservation Board for review and comment prior to formally submitting their application."

The board also appointed Craig Schutt chair of the existing Conservation Advisory Council.

Environmental planning

Debbie Gross, the Town's Environmental Planner, reported that the Tompkins County Planning Department is working on its own comprehensive plan for the county, and wanted to hold a joint public meeting with the Town Board and Planning Board, possibly April 15.

Gross is getting set up with mapping software and planning training on storm water regulations. There's a possibility of the town sharing her work with the Town of Caroline. She has also done research on renewable and efficient energy "with respect to building a new town hall", and has been preparing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for telecommunications consultants.

She has also been working on trail development, and asked if the board would support bringing back the trail committee. Jack Bush volunteered to work with it.

County news

The County Briefing followed the public hearing, with Martha Robertson discussing a meeting on the housing shortage and related problems in Tompkins County. The state and federal budgets also seems likely to create additional problems for county finance. She also mentioned the traffic calming meeting held this week. Michael Lane discussed a study on Caswell Road leachate and whether it might be trucked to the Freeville wastewater plant rather than the Ithaca plant, as well as the road re-classification discussed at the traffic calming meeting.

Highways and public works

The Board then moved to the Highway Department, where Jack Bush requested that the Board change the health care coverage for elected officials, as the rate ($159/week) makes him paid less than his unelected deputy. There was also some conversation about snowplow accidents.

The temporary sewer pump on Freese Road is working, and the Board approved a replacement for it at the end of the meeting, using "public emergency" grounds to skip competitive bidding.


Jennifer Glaab, the Recreation Coordinator, distributed the 2003 Annual Report for the Recreation Department and reported that two college students were volunteering on projects. The ice rink was running though the lights can't be fixed for night skating, and the Dryden Caroline Drifters Snowmobile Club had groomed the Jim Schug Trail for cross-country skiing. Contra dancing, wrestling, after-school ice skating (at the Rink in Lansing), lacrosse, and baseball and softball are in the works. The board also appointed Tracey Kurtz to the Recreation Commission.


Bambi Hollenbeck, Town Clerk and Receiver of Taxes, reported that tax collection was in progress and the Town's warrant to the county was paid.

Historical issues

The Board voted to roll over $255 from last year's Old Home Days to this years, and noted that a $1000 gift had been made for the Town Historian. However, Marty Christofferson "said there had been some concerns about the Town Historian and that position has not been appointed for this year. He has spoken with some people that are with the Historical Society and asked them for a recommendation."

Infrastructure and routine

The Town Board approved the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment budget, discussed the possibility of lights for the Meadow Drive and Leisure Lane area, and talked about the computer systems at the town hall, as well as approving an abstract for $154,638.58.

Fire companies

There seems to be no mention of the fire company contracts in this meeting. At the January 27 meeting, Councilman Michael proposed "that the Town approve a contract at the February meeting, and if the departments like it they can sign it and send it back." Perhaps negotiations continue.

The board did receive a draft report from Sciarabba Walker on audits for all of the fire companies except Etna, but there is no mention of discussion. Also, Neptune Hose has asked the Town Board to hold its April meeting at their department "because they have a presentation and service awards to make".

Posted by simon at February 27, 2004 8:37 AM in , , , , , ,
Note on photos