February 26, 2010
Legislators end Elm St. parking project
Lack of money kills county effort to buy 2 properties for County Office Building parking
Cortland County Legislators on Thursday nixed plans to acquire two Elm Street properties for parking at the County Office Building.
The vote was 13-5 and effectively ended more than two years of work on the project.
Legislators Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer), Tony Pace (D-7th Ward), Sandy Price (D-Harford and Virgil), Don Spaulding (D-6th Ward) and John Steger (R-Preble and Scott) were opposed.
Legislator Tom Hartnett (D-4th Ward) was absent.
Legislators said the county does not have enough money to proceed. The county authorized a purchase price of $70,000 in 2007 for the properties at 13-15 Elm St.
The land had been intended to be used for additional parking, which various space studies determined was needed at the County Office Building, Maintenance Department Supervisor Brian Parker said Thursday.
But legislators including Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) said the fact the county does not have funds overrides the county’s need for parking.
Jennifer Gofkowski (D-Homer) agreed.
“The county is broke ... I am not willing to expend more tax dollars,” Gofkowski said, saying people can find other places to park and walk to the office building.
The county was planning to use its share of state settlement tobacco funds to pay for the purchase of these properties but at Thursday’s session legislators were told the tobacco funds have been depleted to about $146,000.
The majority of this money will have to pay for demolition fees on south Main Street, property which the county is swapping with Tompkins Cortland Community College for TC3’s extension site on West Court Street.
But Price said there are other options to purchase the Elm Street properties, saying the purchase could be bonded or budgeted for. She said she would “support continuing on the path” that legislators have been pursuing for the past two years.
Pace agreed the county should continue with the plans to acquire the property, saying it is an investment in the future, rather than simply a potential parking expansion.
“We have to plan for the future, not be anchored to the present,” Pace said before voting.
Pace cited a growing senior population that would rely more heavily on county services in the future, saying the property acquisition could give the county options for developing land in the future.
But Legislature Chairman Jack Williams (D-8th Ward) said there was “no way” he could vote to continue with the eminent domain proceedings because the county has no money to do so.
“I want to do the right thing and look to the future but maybe there is another way,” Williams said, adding he is reluctant to take property off the tax rolls.
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