Photo courtesy of the City of Ithaca

This story was written by the Ithaca Voice’s Mike Smith.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca’s Common Council continues to work through the details of Mayor Svante Myrick’s proposed budget.

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Regular meetings throughout October and into November put spokespersons from Ithaca’s various government departments in front of the council to answer questions about potential budget changes.

A meeting last week focused heavily on the Ithaca Police Department, and also saw representatives from Southside Community Center, GIAC (Greater Ithaca Activies Center) and the Ithaca Youth Bureau.

See here for a summary of the IPD presentation; the stories below are related to the presentations by GIAC and the IYB:

1 – Ithaca Youth Bureau – Repairing the Rink

The ice rink at Cass Park is in a state of disrepair, but the cost to replace it may prove prohibitive.

The 1st phase of a 3-phase repair project has already been completed, but there’s much more to do to return the rink to full working order.

Photo courtesy of the City of Ithaca

In particular, a $1.2 million project would repair the roof and the “low-e ceiling” (a special type of ceiling that helps maintain temperature and preserve ice quality in the facility).

“I urge everyone to look at it — it’s in tatters. … In the summer, there’s bird droppings all over the ground. Not only is it a health hazard but it’s a suck on maintenance time,” said Common Council member George McGonigal.

“If we don’t rectify this, the ice rink could close. And that would, obviously, be a very bad thing.”

McGonigal spoke about the importance of repairing the low-e ceiling.

“This is a large ticket item, there’s no way around that,” McGonigal said about the cost of repairs, but added he “would urge my colleagues to support” the project.

A third phase would put the rink inside an enclosure, further enhancing visitor experience and allowing the rink to be used more throughout the year.

The costs to repair it will only continue to grow, by as much as 6% per year, according to the presentation at City Hall.

If the city is unable to find the funds, keeping the rink open my depend on grants and donations.

“It’s a priority for us because we really feel it’s in line with the city’s priorities … by moving forward with this project, it really allows us to be cost-efficient with city resources, staff time and creating a safe environment for our users,” one IYB official said to the Council.

2 – Southside Community Center – A Living Wage

The new directorial board of the Southside Community Center came to request a funding increase in order to pay their staff a living wage.

They reported that many of their staff members make between $11 and $13 hourly – not enough to support their families. This carries the concern that those employees may be forced to look elsewhere for financial reasons, even if their heart is with the Community Center. Such vacancies would be difficult to fill at the wages offered.

The catch? The Southside Community Center is independent of the city, so its staff are not city employees. While many on the council seemed sympathetic to the situation, they requested additional financials from Southside before moving forward.

The idea of the Community Center becoming an official part of the city was also put forth, with more discussion forthcoming in the coming year.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.