December 12, 2009
TC3, county land swap nears approval
Legislature will vote Thursday on contracts for new academic building on Main St.
Cortland County Legislators at Thursday’s Budget and Finance Committee endorsed the county’s land swap with Tompkins Cortland Community College’s TC3 Foundation, a move the full Legislature will consider Thursday.
Legislators Tony Piombo (R-2nd Ward), Newell Willcox (R-Homer) and Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) were opposed. They said they did not object to the deal with the foundation but the process that was used and the short amount of time they had to review the leases before voting on them.
The full Legislature will consider two contracts, which were finalized Monday.
Under the agreement, the college will build a larger, 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot academic building on the south Main Street site. The county would move its Horizon House adult-care program to the approximately 3,400-square feet West Court Street building currently used by TC3.
One contract outlines a 10-year lease agreement in which TC3 allows Cortland County use of a storage facility on the south Main Street site, formerly the location of Robbins Vending.
A second lease between Cortland County and the TC3 Foundation, allows the college to continue using its West Court Street property, the Niagara Mohawk Extension Center, until the demolition and structural work on south Main Street is completed.
The timeline given was 2012 but County Administrator Scott Schrader anticipates that construction will be done before then since he expects the property transfer to occur more quickly.
Schrader said the extra window of time is an “abundance of caution,” which allows for any scheduling delays.
Bob Ross, assistant to TC3 President Carl Haynes for real estate development, said at the meeting that under the agreement the college will benefit from additional classroom space. Ross estimated that about seven or eight classrooms, which would hold approximately 25 students each, could be constructed on the site.
Schrader said the transactions are of no cost to the county.
Willcox, in casting his opposing vote, disagreed.
Willcox pointed to the county’s history with the site, saying he always voted against acquiring the south Main Street property.
The county has gone back and forth with the property since December 2006, when the Legislature voted to buy nine properties on and around south Main Street for a $5.5 million public health building. Public opposition killed the project and the county was forced to buy the Moose Lodge and Robbins Vending properties after a judge ruled the county could not back out of a valid purchase agreement. The county spent about $550,000 to buy the property on south Main Street.
“I have no problem with TC3,” said Willcox. He said his problem is with the county’s history on the south Main Street site and the disparity in the property values that are being swapped.
Schrader said that the value of the south Main Street properties being used by students who will bring business to the downtown area, evens out the inequity of the appraised property values which are being transferred.
The Court Street property was appraised at approximately $275,000 and the south Main Street property, without the buildings, was appraised at approximately $375,000, said Schrader.
Schrader said demolition and asbestos removal on the south Main Street site will cost approximately $100,000.
All work on the site is being paid out of the county’s $2.8 million share of funds the state was awarded about five years ago through settlement with tobacco companies.
Legislators will have to decide what to do with the Grant Street site after the Horizon House is relocated. The property is valued at approximately $75,000, said Schrader.
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward) said the county could decide to keep the property and put something else there or sell it.
Troy said he thinks the land swap is a great thing for the community.
“TC3 will be a great neighbor and revitalize the neighborhoods with the students down on Main Street,” Troy said.
Troy said the land deal also solves the county’s problem with the site it acquired because of its mistakes.
“It is a great solution considering the mistakes we made, a great solution for the county, the city and TC3,” Troy said.
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