The Tompkins County Public Safety Committee approved funding $144,380 for the Community Justice Center on April 15, a major part of the Reimagining Public Safety proposal that was approved last month. The money will fund the county’s portion of the joint city-county venture, bringing it that much closer to reality.
Expressed in prior meetings throughout the Reimagining process, the Community Justice Center will work with the city and county to implement the plans approved by the two legislative bodies.
County Administrator Jason Molino said employees with the Community Justice Center will be county employees who have a contract with the city. Though he did not specify the number of employees, in past meetings it was suggested that there would be two. The original idea was to have them work out of the county’s mental health building on East Green Street in Ithaca. However, legislator Shawna Black said she was worried about that making people uncomfortable.
“I don’t want it to have a negative feel,” she said. Black also suggested using the Office of Human Rights of the Human Services annex instead.
Molino agreed that her point was a good one, and something he’d keep in mind as they began to finalize plans.
Legislator Deborah Dawson asked, on behalf of a constituent, whether or not the Community Justice Center, and costs associated, would be a permanent part of the government. Molino explained that this proposal is for two years, and then it would be reevaluated.
“This isn’t suggested to be permanent right now,” he said. “It’ll be an annual cost, but with a two-year expectation. We’ll evaluate success and opportunities and then see where we are from there.”
Legislator Mike Sigler asked how the Sheriff’s Office would be involved, and added that he’s of the mind it should all be run through Sheriff Derek Osborne. Molino assured him that all the departments will be involved in the process and will be able to participate in working groups that are relevant to the recommendations affecting them.
The Community Justice Center would also report back to the Legislature regularly on its progress, work and expenditures. The Public Safety Committee approved the funding, and it will go before the Budget Committee next before being voted on by the full County Legislature. So though a preliminary step, legislator Rich John said it was an important one.
“We really want to send a message to the community that we want to advance this,” he said.