How Should Broome County Spend Millions From Tobacco Settlement?

By James WIlcox

July 22, 2010 Updated Feb 16, 2006 at 7:30 PM EDT

A proposal on the agenda asked to lawmakers approve renovation and reconstruction of the George Harvey Justice Building as the preferred project.

It's the project favored by the County Executive, Barbara Fiala.

But there's a competing project.

Broome Community College wants to build a Communications Technology Center.

The Broome County Legislature voted 17 to 1 to continue looking at both projects.

People in Broome County have heard the debate over tobacco money for months.

How do taxpayers want to spend the money?

Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala envisions a judicial hub at the old George Harvey Justice building on Hawley Street.

It would house probation, district attorney and public defenders offices.

"I think it would be a nice thing if that building would be restored," says Ralph Briggs of Endwell.

Others think it would be better to build a new Communications Technology Center at Broome Community College.

The proposed 35 million dollar building project would house the art, music, and communications departments.

Plus a conference center and television studio.

"I just always think that the media age that we live in today, that being on the cutting edge with technology and communication is probably a wise thing for the whole county," says Connie Benninger of Binghamton.

The county has three criteria it needs to meet for spending the settlement money.

The money must be used for smoking prevention, county debt reduction, or capital improvement projects.

And while many people we talked with say the BCC project and the Harvey Justice Renovation are needed, they say there are better ways to spend the money.

"I think it should help a lot of seniors. There's a lot of seniors here that can't afford different things, places to live, ya know, that are for handicapped," says Anne Ondreyko of Johnson City.

"I think they should make a rec center for kids so they can at least go somewhere because there's really nothing for these teenagers to do," says Candice Dorais of Johnson City.

"I think it should go for preventing smoking. That's what it's for. That's what they paid it off for, but everybody is using it for something else," says Bill Osiar of West Corners.

In the past, Broome County has used the money to build a senior center, for capital projects, and reducing debt.

Lawmakers now have one more opportunity to put this windfall to use.

Broome County received a lump sum payment of 45.3 million dollars in 2001.

It used 40 million for debt reduction, 4.3 million on capital projects like roads, and 1 million to build the Broome West Senior Center.

The remaining 17 million is the second and last payment.

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