November 30, 2021

TC3 building needs $3.5 million roof

DRYDEN — If the buckets to catch rainwater weren’t a good clue that Tompkins Cortland Community College needs a new roof, the video showing portions of the roof puffing up like a balloon in the wind was.

The college is seeking $3.5 million for an emergency replacement of the 20-year-old roof on the main building, of which Cortland County’s share would be about $600,000. The budget committee will consider the emergency request when it meets Tuesday.

“We really can’t wait. We need to replace it right away,” said Blixy Taetzsch, dean of operations and enrollment management at TC3. “We’re trying to tack it down, but … “

The state has already approved its 50-percent share of the cost, Cortland County Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville) said this week. It just falls to Cortland and Tompkins counties to come up with their share.

TC3 workers long ago learned where the buckets needed to be in a storm, said Jim Turner, the college’s facilities director. “We’ve had to do that for years. That’s fairly typical for a roof of this age.”

What isn’t typical was watching the membrane covering the roofing tiles coming up during a storm in May, Taetzsch said. “We saw it billowing up,” she said, and caught it on video. Lose that membrane and the college would need vats to collect the drippage from a roof over a 355,000-square-foot building. “We had some serious water coming in.”

The problem is that replacing the roof wasn’t part of the college’s master plan, last updated seven years ago, she said. And while it would probably have been included in its next revision, funding the project would still take a couple of years beyond that.

“You can’t just let it go,” Whitney said. “TC3 has done a lot of improvements. Everybody just assumed there had been a new roof.”

Wrong assumption. Now the county needs to find $600,000 for its share, on top of the $1.7 million it will provide the college this year. Tompkins’ share would be about $1 million.

“I’m not saying we have money just laying around,” Whitney said, but the county does have $14.8 million in unrestricted money in the bank for just such an emergency. Or it could borrow the money.

“One-time expenditures should be straight out if you can afford it,” he added. “I say pay cash, but that will be the topic of discussion Tuesday.”