TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — The county and city are considering the possibility of a shared location for the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Ithaca Police Department in Ithaca.

The City of Ithaca and Tompkins County have both been evaluating their public safety facilities and future needs of their departments. Co-locating the two agencies was one recommendation of the Tompkins County Law Enforcement Shared Services Study, which was conducted by the Center for Governmental Research.

The CGR study found that co-location “has the greatest potential to reduce capital costs in a joint facility, decrease ongoing costs and increase operational efficiency through smart design.”

Related: Research firm presents options for reimagining Tompkins law enforcement

Co-location of the city police and county road patrol and civil division could provide shared facilities for arresting, booking and processing, which would reduce costs associated with equipment for photographing, fingerprinting, breath analysis and holding unarraigned inmates, the CGR study outlines. Bringing the county’s two largest police agencies together would also consolidate evidence storage, create a common reception and public lobby area and modernize both facilities.

“Since both the city and county are exploring new facilities for law enforcement operations, this would be an excellent time to consider a joint facility,” the study said.

Legislator Rich John said the jail and sheriff’s office are in real need of updating and upgrading. Particularly in the jail, John said, there is not enough room to run programming, the nurse’s facilities are in a converted jail cell and the kitchen facilities are inadequate. At the same time, John said the City of Ithaca has also been trying to address deficiencies in their building.

A concern raised by Legislator Glenn Morey was that the study will only focus on potential locations in the City of Ithaca. John acknowledged that the study would focus on sites in Ithaca because the Ithaca Police Department would have difficulty locating the department outside of city limits.

Legislator Mike Lane said he did not have a problem with considering Ithaca for the sheriff’s office location because Ithaca is the seat of Tompkins County, and historically facilities were in Ithaca.

Legislator Mike Sigler voted against the study because the resolution is not transparent about the true motive — to move the sheriff’s office to Downtown Ithaca.

“If that’s what you want to do here, then fine, that should be the vote,” Sigler said. “But to say well we’re going to do a study on this and we’re going to come up with these 15 locations, but they’re only going to be in the city. … I can save you $24,000 right now then. I’ll tell you where it’s going to be. It’s going to be over in the industrial park where we have land or it’s going to be over there by Walmart where we have land.”

The resolution did pass Tompkins County Legislature on Sept. 20, with Sigler and Morey voting no. The resolution supporting the study agreed to spend up to $10,000 to fund the study.

The architectural consulting firm Kingsbury Architecture, LLC, has submitted a proposal to conduct the study for $19,650.

The city has already committed to fund the other half of the cost and take part in the study. In 2016, the city passed a resolution to conduct a “city facilities study.” Common Council voted to fund the study through a bond resolution that was adopted in January 2018, according to City Clerk Julie Holcomb.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.