So you just moved to the greater Ithaca area, and you might have some questions: “Where do I pay my parking ticket?” “When is trash day?” “Where can I renew my car registration?” “Where can I get a passport?” “Where can I get a judgment on my credit report?”.
Luckily for you, there is someone who has an answer for all of these, and other questions of their ilk: municipal clerks. Here in Greater Ithaca, depending on where you are, there are four such people: Tompkins County Clerk Maureen Reynolds, City of Ithaca Clerk Julie Holcomb, Town of Ithaca Clerk Paulette Terwilliger, and Village of Cayuga Heights Clerk Joan Mangione.
All four admitted municipal divisions alone can get a bit confounding, especially for a newcomer.
“The various levels of local government can be confusing,” Reynolds said. “However, we all know each other and what each other is responsible for, so we will get you to the right clerk! We actually have a shared services group where all of the municipal clerks get together. All of the us work together to eliminate redundancies and to save taxpayer money.”
Added Mangione: “The village of Cayuga Heights is part of the town and, of course, the county. Some Cornell lands are in the village and some in the city and some in the town. The very basic difference is who picks up one’s refuse? When one is looking at more complex questions of co-operation, there is a Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) to which all municipalities belong. They have addressed topics such as working together to negotiate with Time-Warner Cable. Tompkins County, led by the efforts of Clerk Maureen Reynolds has brought grant monies into the county to create a Records Management System that has benefited all towns and villages. Municipalities in our county have a record of working together unparalleled in the state.”
Holcomb noted it can get particularly tricky for new residents with Ithaca addresses who don’t technically live in Ithaca.
“We describe Ithaca as a donut,” Holcomb said. “The town of Ithaca is the donut and the city is the donut hole! A lot of people think they live in the city because they have an Ithaca mailing address but actually they live in the town of Dryden or Enfield, et cetera. We do our best to point them in the right direction and put them in touch with the appropriate people.”
While all four clerks have differences in their responsibilities, the core of what they do stayed true no matter the municipality.
“I consider myself the face of the town and the greeter,” Terwilliger said. “People want to know anything about a town or the surroundings they call the clerk. I am the liaison between people and all the departments within the town and to some extent the county. We refer and find information; if we don’t know the answer, we will find it for you. Statutory responsibilities are issuing a variety of licenses and permits and making sure boards follow the various rules set forth by the state.
In short, Mangione confirmed there is no shortage of responsibilities for clerks, and duties often encompass everything under the sun.
“As I’m certain the other clerks will confirm,” she said, “there is a long list of responsibilities for municipal clerks. Without reproducing the village clerk position description, it’s difficult to communicate the variety of responsibilities we have. The clerk maintains custody of the village seal, books, records, and papers. As tecords management officer the clerk must make books, records, and papers available for public inspection. We serve as clerk of the board of trustees which means attending all meetings, recording and preparing minutes of these meetings. The clerk is tax collector and liaison with the county assessment department. (Tompkins County is one of only two in the state with a shared assessment department.) I could go on and on. The clerk’s office is the recipient of water and sewer payments, we sell Village trash tags, and record payments for building permits. We respond to frequent inquiries from village residents regarding a wide range of topics which include refuse collection, building permits, laws and regulations, taxes, meetings, etc.”
All four clerks urged new residents to reach out to them with questions and concerns.
“Enjoy Ithaca and Tompkins County while you are here. It is an amazing place to live,” Reynolds said.
Added Terwilliger: “Just because your mailing address is “Ithaca” it doesn’t mean you live in Ithaca; and there is a difference between the Town and the City. Sign up for the newsletter and don’t be afraid to call. We’re friendly, just call.”
Mangione noted that in addition to stopping in city, village, county or town halls, - in 2015 – you often don’t even have to live your new residence to get the answer you’re looking for.
“Don’t be afraid to call or stop in and ask questions,” she said. “Every municipality has a website loaded with information. Be sure to check them out.” §