ITHACA, NY – The Tompkins County Legislature voted 8-5 on Tuesday to move forward with study that would examine the feasibility of consolidating some City of Ithaca and Tompkins County law enforcement services.
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The groundwork for this consolidation study was laid in November of last year, when the legislature voted 10-2 to draft an application to the state to secure grant money. Wording in the original resolution required it to come back before the legislature for final approval before the application could be submitted.
Despite being a late addition to the agenda, County Administrator Mareane emphasized that the resolution essentially needed to be passed that same night. The state had, in February, locked down a March 15 deadline for submitting applications. Since the legislature would not meet again until that date, delaying approval could have impacted the ability to secure state funding.
Dissent arose over two issues. First, whether or not there had been ample time for public comment on the study and second, whether or not the next step in the study would need to come before the full legislature.
Legislator Carol Chock noted that following the controversy over the jail expansion, members of the public had expressed ideas and concerns about police consolidation. She said that she felt there should be some public outreach before moving ahead.
Answering concerns about the need for the next stage of the plan to be seen by the full legislature, Mareane said that while the language didn’t explicitly require it, he saw no reason why an issue this important would be kept on a committee level.
The legislature debated for about 40 minutes on the issue, multiple amendments to the language were proposed and mostly voted down.
Ultimately, Legislators Dooley Kiefer, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Mike Sigler, Will Burbank, and Carol Chock voted against the resolution. Kiefer and Sigler had voted no on the original resolution in November.
Following Tuesday’s vote, the study is still in it’s nascent stages. The resolution empowered Joe Mareane to submit a grant application to the state and solicit proposals from interested municipalities who wish to participate in the study. The Villages of Groton, Dryden and Cayuga Heights have also expressed interest, as well as Cornell University, according to Mareane.
Mareane said initial projections for savings for the county, if efficiencies could be achieved, to be $450,000 annually.
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