Year in review: A look forward to what 2020 has in store

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In our last issue, Tompkins Weekly took a look back at what 2019 brought to the county. Now that 2019 has come and gone, and the new year is here, it’s the perfect time to look at upcoming projects, milestones and efforts in 2020.

Education

Arguably one of the largest projects 2020 has in store for the county is the official start of Ithaca College’s Ithaca Forever, its five-year strategic plan. Dave Maley, IC director of public relations, described it best.

“The plan is intended to serve as a blueprint for how the college is going to provide an exceptional educational experience for our students, one that is accessible, affordable, responsive to the needs of college students,” he said. “This comprehensive plan is going to guide the college’s efforts through the next five years to help ensure the longevity and sustainability of the college.”
Ithaca Forever is centered around four main areas of focus: collaboration and governance; diversity, equity and inclusion; off-campus partnerships; and year-round campus.

In Ithaca Forever’s first year, the college plans to develop a common schedule and common academic regulations across schools; expand the Bias Impact Reporting process to include programming that educates campus around relevant topics; revise the college diversity statement; and develop and pilot programs for winter and summer academic terms and immersion experiences, according to the school’s website.

At Tompkins Cortland Community College, President Orinthia Montague said the college plans to focus on adult enrollment initiatives and micro-credentials in 2020 to increase enrollment for new and returning students.

“What we’re trying to do is tie what we offer at the college to what the labor market is saying that they need, what our adult and working students are saying they need,” Montague said. “That’s very key, that people can get in and get out and continue with their lives.”

Transportation

Mike Hall, director of the Ithaca-Tompkins International Airport, said the airport plans to finish a general aviation customs facility by the end of this year, which will allow direct international arrivals into the airport.

Hall said the customs building is mostly complete, and the next step is moving customs in with equipment, technology and other materials needed for operations.

“In the next quarter, we expect the building to be fitted out with all the computer gear, … and then, an agent will be assigned, and then, the whole thing together will be commissioned,” Hall said. “My goal for that is second quarter, or April of 2020.”

The airport will be able to accept any aircraft from an international point of departure that’s been pre-cleared, from places like Toronto and Paris. If the flight hasn’t been pre-cleared, then the plane can have up to 20 seats.

Clearing more than 20 passengers on an international flight in would take much more space, personnel and resources, and Hall said there wasn’t enough of a demand to justify a bigger facility than what is currently being worked on.

Still, the international travel the facility will generate is expected to bring in numerous benefits to the county.

“You can actually fly here nonstop from Beijing, the Middle East and all of Europe, and that will help our international community be connected,” Hall said.

Housing

Ithaca Arthaus, a proposed $28.7 million development at 130 Cherry St., is expected to break ground this spring and be completed in the fall of 2021. Located near the Cherry Artspace and featuring an art aesthetic, Arthaus will have 124 affordable units, including 40 that will support at-risk youth and an 8,800-square-foot amenity space, according to Tompkins County Area Development.

“That’s something on that continuum of care services that we need in terms of housing,” TCAD President Heather McDaniel said.
Sam Buggeln, artistic director at the Cherry, said he is hoping the Arthaus will provide the opportunity for the artspace to create a relationship with working families living next door.

“Like most arts companies in the U.S., we’re always working to make sure we’re accessible to folks in all different socioeconomic spaces, and it’s not always obvious how to build those bridges, so we’re really psyched to have the Arthaus right down the canal,” he said.

Glen Lake Apartments, a mixed-income, mixed-use new Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services construction project located one block from downtown Ithaca, is expected to break ground this year, according to INHS Strategic Communications Manager Justina Fetterly.

According to the INHS website, Glen Lake Apartments will be “affordable to renters earning between 47% and 80% of the Area Median Income, and six units will be set aside for clients of the Schuyler County ARC.”

“The childcare center will include five classrooms, meeting/program space for families, a commercial kitchen for meals, offices for staff and a dedicated playground,” INHS said. “The building will be constructed to extremely high-energy efficiency and green building standards.”

To make room for more waterfront development, the Department of Transportation facility, currently located on the West End on Cayuga Lake, is set to move and have a new facility by the end of this year.

Legislation

Martha Robertson, chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, said one big focus for the Legislature this year is improving the Public Safety Building. The building, originally constructed in 1986, is worn and in need of renovation, Robertson said. The Legislature is looking to improve the conditions of the jail and increase the options for people to get education and counseling right in the facility.

“That’s a big issue we’re going to be looking at – is there a way to take that building and improve it without adding any jail cells but just make much, much better use of that space,” she said.

Another legislative move starting this year is the county’s 2020 Solid Waste Annual Fee, which is now $60, a $2 increase from the 2019 fee. As covered in a previous Tompkins Weekly article, the fee increase is in response to higher costs and lower revenues from recycling processing in the county.

2020 also marks the start of the county’s new budget year. The county’s 2020 budget is $193.5 million, which includes $93 million in net local spending and increasing the county tax levy by 2.75%. The tax rate of $6.31 per thousand is down by 10 cents from 2019, representing an increase of $11.41 in the tax bill for the median-valued $190,000 county home, according to the Legislature website.

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