Tompkins County Council of Governments
for December 8, 2021
by Councilperson Robert Lynch
Enfield TCCOG Representative
The Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) met December 2nd. Both Supervisor Redmond and I attended the virtual meeting, one briefer than usual. We’ll next meet in the New Year on February 24th, when we’ll reorganize.
Danby-Caroline County Legislator Dan Klein brought to our meeting a draft proposal he’d written. It would have TCCOG serve as the lead agency in a county-wide intermunicipal study of cell phone reception. Legislator Klein suggested Tompkins County underwrite the study through the $6.5 Million “Community Recovery Fund,” a County set-aside the Legislature has established to compensate for the American Rescue Plan funds legislators have chosen to assign instead to big-ticket capital projects.
Klein had intended his proposal would as its first, most basic step develop a map, one identifying cell reception dead spots, a map likely based on a survey of participating residents; the logic holding that those with poor cell service would likely supply information.
However, between the drafting of Klein’s proposal and the December TCCOG meeting, the County’s Information Technology Services (ITS) Department informed the legislator that the Federal Communications Commission already provides the type of coverage data Klein thought he’d need volunteers to obtain. ITS said it could prepare the type of maps Klein had requested. One map would show where coverage exists and does not. The second might be “interactive,” providing a map that consumers could navigate both to identify which cell carrier provides the best service at a particular location and also allow residents to verify the FCC data’s accuracy. Based on his new information, Klein withdrew his proposal for a TCCOG-led study, yet suggested TCCOG might choose to pursue a reception study grant at some future time.
At my suggestion, TCCOG may establish a fifth subcommittee, a “communications subcommittee,” one that would merge cell phone and Internet service issues.
Though TCCOG meetings, themselves, seldom make news, this meeting did. Interim County Administrator Lisa Holmes, responding to Ithaca Town Supervisor Rod Howe’s inquiry, announced that a first-round search for a new County Administrator, in her words, “did not result in a candidate to bring forward.” The search for Administrator Jason Molino’s successor was nationwide. The County reportedly utilized a top-tier executive search firm. Yet, apparently no one satisfied the County’s expectations, despite the increased salary assigned the position, as much as $160,000 annually.
“So the search effort was then paused for the remainder of 2021.” Holmes told TCCOG. “When a new Legislature is in place in 2022, they will resume the process and try again.” Lisa Holmes advised TCCOG that she will continue as Interim County Administrator pending the second-round search’s conclusion.
The final highlight of the December meeting involved TCCOG’s possible involvement in promoting electric vehicle charging stations, an initiative which may in the New Year bridge the responsibilities of the both the Energy and Transportation Subcommittees, the latter of which I chair. Discussion occurred as to whether TCCOG might work to advance installation of EV charging stations around the county. One member noted that State funds to underwrite such facilities expired in October and have not been renewed. Members suggested TCCOG invite the County’s Sustainability Officer, Terry Carroll, to discuss options at a future meeting.
TCCOG representatives from Danby, Caroline and Cayuga Heights indicated that each of their municipalities have installed EV charging stations. Danby Supervisor Joel Gagnon warned us that towns must take care to ensure financial accountability. Gagnon said State auditors recently questioned Danby’s practice of giving energy away without compensation.
Caroline Supervisor Mark Witmer responded that his Town approached its charging station system differently when the system was installed four years ago. It established a procedure that debits the cost of energy consumed from the energy’s user. Witmer explained that he’d become the charging station’s primary customer. So Caroline needed to ensure that he, Supervisor Witmer, would not receive an unwarranted taxpayer-funded gratuity.
Cayuga Heights has installed a credit-card based method of assessing cost. The Village has two charging stations in place. Cayuga Heights Mayor Linda Woodard said the stations are “starting to get a reasonable amount of usage,” usually three or four vehicles per day for a period of time.
“It’s been exciting to see a number of different EV’s charging here at the Town Hall, after that not happening for several years,” Caroline’s Witmer told our meeting. “People see the charge point station on their app, and they come here to charge.”
Is there consumer demand for such a charging station in Enfield? Would it be used? Is it affordable for us? Would it return its cost? Perhaps it’s something our Town Board can investigate in the New Year.
Robert Lynch, Councilperson
Enfield TCCOG Representative